Dave in Thailand Laos
Luang Prabang March 20-24 2006 (page 4 - another wat on a hill, and another..)

On Thursday, our 4th and last full day in Luang Prabang we planned just to mooch around the town a bit more, and there was a wat on a hill on the other side of the river we wanted to see. The town is famous for its literally dozens of wats in such a relatively small area, and we passed by many each day without going in for a closer look. We tried to see the main ones though - there's a short bit here about the things in a wat, if you're interested.

Well, first here's the one just up from where we stayed, called Wat Pha Mahathat, or Wat That for short, the main chedi dating from the early 1500s - a closer-up of the very impressive (to me, anyway!) naga steps, and a second of Ann looking down them, and another of the main temple from inside the large wat yard - the chedi at the far end of the wat is the original 1500s one.
Wat That Naga steps, looking up
Wat That Naga steps, looking down
Wat That wat plus the old chedi
- and some detail from a wall of one of the smaller buildings in the yard, this one pieces of cut colored glass fastened to the wall to make a whole lot of scenes of village life. All of the temples had some kind of special artwork, a huge amount of time and creativity, making it all very beautiful and interesting - and fitting for an important city, I suppose, which it was - actually, wandering around, you see many places that are now unused and a little or a lot dilapidated, but that you can see were once very big and probably important and busy places - it would be very interesting to know more about the history (we checked out the UN World Heritage Site Office (the place was declared a heritage site about 10 years ago) - and they had nothing. No info at all - we eventually found a World Heritage Site brochure at the LP tourism office, which wasn't a whole lot more helpful - but even the brochure said nothing more than that LP used to be a big important place. Couldn't believe the complete lack of any desire or ability to help at the World Heritage Site office though - not even any English speaking staff at the office, no help whatsoever, completely clueless. Don't get me going.) colored glass on wall

After that we caught a samlaw (motorcycle with side carriage (other places a pedal bike is called samlaw)) out to a place called Wat Pha Phon Pao, which was a famous meditation wat, although the main guru guy died a few years ago and had, it is said, one of the biggest ever funerals for such a person in Laos. It is still quite beautiful, although most of the wat grounds aside from the Peace Pagoda in the picture, were undergoing a lot of renovations and improvements while we were there, and also the pagoda itself was closed, so we only got a look at the outside. But it was lovely and peaceful, and with a nice view of the west part Luang Prabang, as we were a few km outside of town (if you're really into this and looking at maps, this would be down off the bottom left of the map in the first page) - actually, the big PhuSi pagoda on top of the hill we visited the first day is sort of visible between our heads in the second pic - don't bust your eyes, it's just to give an idea of the overall layout of the place - quite sort of storybookish in a number of ways, very much obviously mainly a rural setting with lots of forest and mountains around, which is probably part of the attraction....
Wat Pha Phon peace pagoda
the back of Wat Pha Phon peace pagoda, looking back at Luang Prabang

- and then we made our way back to another wat on the non-river side of the big hill called Wat Wisunarat, the oldest 'working' wat in Luang Prabang (they say - never forget of course that anything I say like this comes from books or stuff, and is subject to misunderstanding or forgetting or hearing problems or general too-much-info-to-process properly stuff or writing about this long after it happened...) - the big stupa in the first pic is called the Watermelon Stupa because of its size, although the wife of the king who did it around 1500 called it the Lotus Stupa
the watermelon stupa at wat wisunarat

- and here is the view from the plaza in front of the watermelon stupa looking back to the big Phu Si hill - the river is on the other side. looking back at Phu Si

- again I am always so interested in the children - here are two with their mother, they were all selling cards and things like that in the plaza - we got there in mid afternoon but apparently it was a morning market and was about closed for the day, but she pulled out some post cards to try to sell us - but the looks on the faces, the kids so happy and full of life and optimistic about their lives, the older woman sort of resigned and out of it, although she was a nice enough person - and don't get me wrong here, this is not a "3rd world phenomenon" - you get the same thing back in Canada as well, and undoubtedly most places, the great joy and optimism of most young people, becoming the miserable, stressed, treadmill-hating med-dependent middle agers - a lot of work left to be done here on our home planet to make things good for people, but that's stuff for elsewhere...
the card seller and her daughters

And here is an old gate leading out of Wat Wisunarat to a smaller wat called Wat Aham, former home of the Supreme Patriarch of Laos Buddhism. gate to Wat Aham

We went back for another look at the national museum, as the important wat there had been closed the first day. Here are two views, one from the front, one from the steps of the museum itself -
wat at the national museum wat at the national museum

- and some of the amazing gold-plated carving all around the building, all the window shutters and door panels and trim had this kind of stuff - and all different scenes - all stories of the religious figures, one really could spend days looking at it all
door panel carving at the national museum door panel carving at the national museum
- and a couple of the nagas that seemed to be on every stairs here
naga stairs at the national museum naga stairs at the national museum
- and on with the shoes again - you have to take em off to enter temples, and most people's houses - nice custom, goes better with sandals... door panel carving at the national museum

Wat Xiang Thong is the most famous wat in Luang Prabang, again dating back to the 1500s; recall the pic of the steps leading up to it from the Mekong from that trip.
wat xiang thong
- a young monk writing something - every wat has a collection of young boys training to be monks - usually kids who are disadvantaged, often too poor to get into regular schools, or whose parents are having problems or are orphans or something - boy at table at xiang thong
- the Buddha inside the main building -
buddha at xiang thong ann in front of the buddha at xiang thong
- this wat had a lot of paintings like this on the outside walls - I don't really know what the story is, but it was pretty violent...
paintings on wall at (I think!) wat Xiang thong
- and out one of the side exits after looking around the large wat compound - it's mid day and hot and time for a break leaving xiang thong by side exit
having a break after all the walking

Well - after we finished at Xiang Thong, and got something to eat and rested a bit, it was still early in the afternoon, and we thought we'd take a trip across to a couple of things on the other side of the river - Luang Prabang - Day 4 part II.

Other Dave in Thailand stuff:

Wien Tien
PSU AG Fair 2004
Loy Gratong at PSU 2004
Kuching 2004
Luang Prabang page 1, page 2, page 3,

this site is mostly sort of a photo album for some friends and family, but if you have stumbled across it somehow on the net and want to contact me, you can write to siamdave at yahoo dot ca