If there would be one single symbol that would best represent Laos in its entirety – it would be the breath-taking Pha That Luang in Vientiane. It is the country’s most important monument like that of Luneta, the Merlion, Sultan Abdul Samad building, the Grand Palace in Bangkok, the Shwe Dagon or the Monas. It’s one of those: “you-never-been-there-if-you-haven’t-seen-it” kind of place.
Pha That Luang is a Bhuddist temple built in the 1500s under the instructions of the Lao King Setthathirat. He wanted it to be built on the ruins of a Khmer temple that was built 300 years earlier – which was in turn constructed on the ruins of an Indian temple built by Buddhist missionaries 1,000 years earlier.
But actually, the Pha That Luang that we see today is relatively new. When the whole of Vientiane was destroyed in the Siam-Lao war in 1828, it was restored in the 1900s. And because it was badly done, it was rebuilt again in its original design in 1933.
Legend has it that the exact place where Pha That Luang is built contains the relics of the Buddha brought by the missionaries to this area.
The main stupa in the center of the temple is 45m high. The design refelects the shape of a lotus – Buddhism’s most famous symbol and everything is painted gold! There are also other beautiful temples, children’s park and the monument of King Sethattirat on the compound. Talat That Luang (local market) is just across the road as well.
Vientiane is best seen on a bike or a motorcycle. Pha That Luang is just 3km away from the city center and you can reach it in less than 15 minutes (Vientiane has no traffic jam!). From the President’s Palace, follow the Lane Xang Road until you reach Patuxay (Vientiane’s Arc de Triomphe). The road will fork after the rotunda; take the right one – That Luang Road. Keep following it and when you see something like a beautiful gigantic bunch of gold and you go: “Whooooaaaa!” – It’s Pha That Luang. You can’t miss a monument as beautiful as this.
That no matter how many times this temple was destroyed over the centuries, it’s still standing in its glorious splendor.
--other photo Credits: Craig Raskin