Wat Mai Suwannapumaram
Thanon Sisavangvong, Luang Prabang, LaosGetting there
The Wat Mai is located on Sisavangvong road in Luang Prabang next to the Royal Palace Museum. It can be reached on foot from many of the town’s attractions. A ride by tuk tuk or jumbo will cost between 10,000 and 15,000 Kip, depending on bargaining skills and distance.Telephone
+856 30 93 02 016More information Prices
admission 10,000KOpening hours
Daily from 8am - 5pm
The largest of the city of Luang Prabang Temple is the Temple Wat Mai. Old is a Buddhist monastery built in the year 1796, located in the historic center of the city of Luang Prabang, along with the Royal Palace that it catches the eye by their roofs in 5 levels.
The temple Wat Mai, formally called Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham ( If Souvanna Phommaram, Mai Souvana Phoun Ram) whose literal translation means the new temple, is a temple founded by King Anourout in the year 1796 and subsequently renovated in the year 1821 by mandate of King Manthatourat.
Wat Mai is located in a privileged place in the centro histórico of Luang Prabang, on the main street, Sisavangvong is installed where the night market of Luang Prabang and next to the Royal Palace (the present National Museum).
Wat Mai is a very popular Temple not only by its size and impressive lines, but because for years served as Royal Temple and also as Pra Sangkharat official residence, maximum dignitary of Lao Buddhism.
Due to its impressive dimensions Temple Wat Mai is easily distinguished from the street, highlighting greatly their roofs 5 levels although it is worth noting the covered porch nestled on 2 rows of columns and the detailed carvings in wood exteriors of Wat Mai.
Because of its historical importance, its large size, its aesthetic beauty and its unbeatable location, Wat Mai is one of the favorite spots for tourists to contemplate the ancient tradition of alms ceremony.
The wat, founded by King Anourout (Anurat, r. 1795-1817) perhaps in 1796/7, dates mostly from the 19th century. Restoration of the wooden sim possibly started in 1821 or 1822 during the reign of King Manthatourat (r. 1817-1836), when it was given the name of The New Monastery. The double colonnaded porch in front and a similar, though less elaborate, porch in the rear were added at that time. Work on on the sim, library and other ancillary building it continued until the 1890s. A number of other structures are from the 20th century. There were major restorations in 1943 and 1962, as well as in more recent times. The sim is built in the traditional Luang Prabang style with added porches on the two sides.
The monastery has special significance for a number of reasons. It served as a temple for the royal family and long has been the residence of the Pra Sangkharat, the highest Laotian Buddhist dignitary. As a result of the Chinese Haw raiders that ravaged much of the city in 1887 (the wat was spared, perhaps because of its beauty), Wat Mai became the repository of the city's palladium, the Prabang. In 1947 the 50" gold statue was moved to the royal palace, now the Royal Palace Museum. During Pimai, the mid-April Laotian New Year, the Prabang is ceremoniously brought from the museum to a temporary pavilion in front of the sim; for three days there is ceremonial washing of the image and opportunity for the faithful to pay homage.
The abbot of Wat Mai also played a role in the opening of Luang Prabang to the world outside of Asia. In 1887 Auguste Pavie, who had a strong admiration for the region, arrived in Luang Prabang as the first French (and European) vice-consul in Laos. At the time the city and region was under the Siamese; they tried to isolate Pavie and his group from the king, Oun Kham, and interfered in a number of ways. The abbot, however, a confidant of the king, served as a conduit for messages between the king and Pavie and invited him to stay at the monastery. French influence grew and by 1893 Siam was forced to recognize the French protectorate over Laos and its incorporation into French Indochina. Pavie was also allowed to examine the extensive palm leaf manuscripts of the monastery and used them to write the first extended early Laotian history in a European language.
The monastery's sim is most noteworthy. Its five-tiered roof (including the sections over the side porches) is a most magnificent sight. Its expanse is readily viewed from the adjoining elevated sidewalk on Thanon Sisavangvong. Its front veranda extends across the width of the nave and protects the gilded bas relief on the front fa?ade and other decorations. The magnificent relief dates from the remodeling of the late 1960s. The cement reliefs were first covered with a black lacquer and then gilded. The entire relief stunningly depicts scenes from the Ramayana and the Vessantara-Jakata, the Buddha's penultimate reincarnation, within the villages and flora and fauna of the world around Luang Prabang. The large and majestic red interior nave with gold stenciling on the columns, beams and walls together with the variety of gilded Buddha statues and tables at the altar and the large Buddha statue provide evidence of the religious, aesthetic and architectural importance of Wat Mai.
It is during the three day festival of Pimai (the Laotian New Year) that the faithful outnumber the tourists and provide additional evidence of the centrality of Wat Mai, not only to the residents of Luang Prabang, but also to the Laotian people.
Beside the palace, Wat Mai is one of the city's most sumptuous monasteries. Its wooden sǐm (ordination hall) has a five-tiered roof in archetypal Luang Prabang style, while the unusually roofed front verandah features detailed golden reliefs depicting scenes from village life, the Ramayana and Buddha's penultimate birth.
When built in 1821 to replace a 1796 original, this was the mai (new) monastery. The name has stuck. It was spared destruction in 1887 by the Haw gangs who reportedly found it too beautiful to harm. Since 1894 it has been home to the Sangharat, the head of Lao Buddhism.
Home of the Phra Bang Buddha image
After much of Luang Prabang and most of its temples were destroyed by Chinese invaders in 1887 the Wat Mai, which was spared the destruction, became the new home of the Phra Bang Buddha image. The Phra Bang, Laos’ most highly venerated Buddha image, stayed there until halfway the 20th century, when it was moved to its current location in the Royal Palace Museum. During Laos new year celebrations the image is brought in procession to the Wat Mai temple for ceremonial cleansing.
The Wat Mai’s most impressive structure is the sim. Its five tiered roof extending almost to the ground is adorned with golden Naga finials. At the center of the highest tier is a “Dok so faa” consisting of three golden parasols.
On either side of the sim is a veranda, the main one being particularly beautiful. Its façade contains very intricate gilded stucco bas reliefs made in the 1960’s. The reliefs depict scenes from the Ramayana and the Jatakas and scenes of every day life in Luang Prabang with temples, animals, houses, festivities and dancing women.
The veranda’s roof is supported by large black and gold stencilled columns topped with capitals in the shape of lotus leafs. The sim’s doors are decorated with gilded carvings of deities and flower motifs.
The sim houses the Wat Mai’s principal Buddha image, a large gilded seated Buddha image in the meditation position. It is surrounded by a large number of smaller images in various mudras. A shrine houses an emerald Buddha image. The original, the most highly venerated Buddha image in Thailand, is enshrined in the Wat Phra Kaew temple on the grounds of the Grand Palace in Bangkok.
Photos in the sim portray Phra Sangkharat, the highest dignitary of Laotian Buddhism who resided in the temple at the end of the 19th century.
Other structures on the grounds
Other structures on the temple grounds include a slender stupa, two small stone chapels, a drum tower and a library building where Buddhist scriptures are kept. The Wat Mai is an active temple; the resident monks live in the kuti, the monks living quarters. A boat house stores several long, slender racing boats used during the Luang Prabang boat racing festival.
How to get to the Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham
The Wat Mai is located on Sisavangvong road in Luang Prabang next to the Royal Palace Museum. It can be reached on foot from many of the town’s attractions. A ride by tuk tuk or jumbo will cost between 10,000 and 15,000 Kip, depending on bargaining skills and distance.
Reviews by visitors
The temple is in a great location and is a place to get an insight into the Laosian Culture. The lack of information about the temple on sight is over-shadowed by the beautiful design. The roof is particularly beautiful. I would recommend bringing a camera and walking shoes for this temple that only requires about 15 minutes to explore.
Pay a ticket price of 10,000 kips (USD 1.25) and enjoy this beautiful Wat for its intricate carvings. Right next to the morning market and just before the royal palace, this place is well located and should not be missed.
Near the Royal Palace, worth a visit, if like us you enjoy beautiful temples. The area has many attractions, including the night market and old quarter, We stayed in a nearby guesthouse, loved our time in Luang Prabang.
In the week following Pimai, the Lao New Year, Wat Mai Suwannapumaram (which the locals call just Wat Mai) holds a ceremony for you to "shower' the Prabang Buddha. The water is poured from two higher platforms, and flows through two dragon channels to showed the Prabang Buddha, then drains off where you collect the water that has washed the Buddha, to dab yourself with, or to bring home. The Prabang Buddha, by the way, is the Buddha that gives Luang Prabang its name. It is a gift from Angkor from hundreds of years ago. For the few days that this ceremony takes place, Wat Mai grounds and surroundings are a riot of shows (nightly dances and enactments of the Ramayana), food stands and carnival games. A total delight.
Next to the Royal Palace one of the most picturesque wat of the city. Built in the late 18th century and according to some sources escaped destruction by the Chinese because it was too beautiful to destroy. Opening hours are from 08:00 to 17:00 and admission fee is 10,000LAK.
One should not miss this more than 200 years old temple in Luang Prabang, Laos.
Many Buddha Statues inside the main temple with Stupas around the perimeter of the compound. The architectural design and how they preserved it was just amazing.
Go for the details, no need to rush.
We happened to see a group from Thailand filming some kind of Travel Documentary show introducing this Temple, interesting.
I love the emerald Buddha statue seated inside... very nice.
Entrance fee of 20,000 kip (about S$1.70) is needed. Photography is allowed within the temple, that's great!!!
The Wat is next to the Royal Palace. It looks really very old but was in fact built in 1821.
It was the occassional home home for the Prabang Buddha which used to be moved from the Royal Palace to the Wat during Laos New Year. It is a stunning building and well worth a visit.
Wat Mai is located next to the Royal Palace Museum on Sisavangvong Road. It is one the largest and most impressive temples in Luang Prabang. The name Wat Mai Suwannapumaram means The New Monastery of the Golden Land. Both its interior and exterior are extensively adorned with black and gold decoration.A boat house stores long racing boats used during the Luang Prabang boat racing festival. There is an entrance fee of 10,000 kips for admission.
This temple is sumptuous, day or night. The sun shining on its front door covered with golden reliefs makes it a 5 star attraction. The roof has many tiers which makes the temples extremely attractive. The flower bushes near by add to its attractiveness in the day time. At night it is the temple is illuminated and can be seen from the terrace going up Mt Phusi
We spent 4 days in LP, staying in the Unesco World Heritage area (Old Quarter). Of course, we saw most of the Wats (including this one). However, this one did not stand out for us… We were inside the complex (taking exterior photos) for several minutes before we were aware of a fee. It was early morning and the gate was open. When asked to pay, we left. It just did not seem special relative to other temples we visited. Perhaps if we had the narrative of a guide it would have had more significance? .
It looks really pretty. But I don't think its worth paying to enter. Based on what I've read and heard, the pretty part of the temple is a really recent development. Which means it probably ain't too historical. Just take a picture from outside. You're better off spending the money at Wat Xieng Thong and the Royal Palace.
~Wei Jie T
A beautiful old temple, it was apparently spared from destruction by marauding Chinese mercenaries, called the black Chinese because of their flags, because it was so beautiful. It was also used by the Royal family whose palace is just around the corner from the temple and is the headquarters for the most senior monk in Laos.
Having been to four other Wats in Luang Prabang where you are able to access a number of the buildings, this was a bit of a disappointment. Only a ver small portion was open to the public and so is hardly worth a visit.
We visited Wat Mai, basically next to the Royal Palace and were not disappointed. What is especially noteworthy from the outside is the roof sweeping down in five separate stages. Once inside the complex (there is a minimal entrance fee) we rather liked the mix of buildings, including what looked like some older ones, the monks' quarters and, if I remember correctly, the temple's archive building. As well as the usual ornate decoration inside the main temple, we were fascinated to watch a number of younger monks busy gluing together colourful lanterns, stars and other paper shapes for an upcoming celebration. It all made the experience much more homely and real.
Well worth the 10.000 KIP (a little more than 1 $) entrance fee to get inside the Temple. It is beautifully decorated in black, red and gold leaf. The roof and columns are an art work as well. One of, if not, the oldest temples in Luang Prabang (late 17 century).
Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham or as I later found out simply called Wat Mai. This has got to be the largest and most richly decorated aside from Haw Phra Bang in the Royal Palace, pretty much next door.
The entire Wat all the way up to the roof is elaborately adorned with beautiful mosaics, carvings and tube tiles. Well worth the 10k Kip entrance fee.
A sweet little temple but very small. When I arrived the monks were in the middle of redecorating the place. Still it has a decent collection of Buddhas. The real treat is outside though. Wonderful carvings on the outer walls and beautifully decorated pillars.
One more temple in LP, there are many.., but this one is beautifully decorated. Walls and ceiling red with gold decoration, alot of budha statues and offerings so its still used alot by religious people. A nice collection of old bells inside..sometimes mots beautiful things are behind the statues, in the back of the temple.
Doesn't take long to visit, this Wat is still a functioning sacred place - which gives it less of a touristy feel and more of a locally loved atmosphere. The stenciles are wonderful, the "wings of the mother hen" are graceful.
Walkable from the Royal Museum, with places outside to sit and observe.
This is right in the middle of town. Not very big, but colorful. This is also night next to the Royal museum so you don't have to plan a visit to this place separately. Right behind this wat in a side street is the morning market. You must buy a ticket only if you want to enter the main temple. No ticket required if you just want to look around the temple.
This wat was built in 1724. It has a multi-layered roof style where pillars in the central structure are higher than the supporting periphery and a covered gallery surrounds the central strucdture. Wat Mai has a five tiered red roof with gilded and stencilled columns. It took seventy years to complete and houses the PraBang Buddha. During New Year's celebrations, the golden Buddha is brought from the Royal Palace to Wat Mai for three days. If you are in Luang Prabang for several days, this is a great stop (less than $2 US). Luang Prabang has a wealth of beautiful wats and this is certainly one of them.
While this temple is not the highlight of Luang Prabang, it's worth a visit if you have some extra time. Chances are you will have some extra time since you're in Luang Prabang lol so give it a shot.
Just as the night market is winding up on Luang Prabang's Main Street, you may suddenly notice a haunting sound drifting thru the starlit air. The rhythmic sound draws you into the grounds of Wat Mai. Then, through a doorway into the main temple, you see 16 monks seated in a geometric pattern, facing the many golden Buddhas, reciting their evening chants. As long as you abide by the many rules laid out in perfect English on a prominent sign (no flash, no talking, just sit quietly at the very back & do not disturb the monks), you are most welcome to observe and take NON-flash photos. Mesmerizing, magical, mysterious.
A jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring place. Really hard to put into the words the intricacy of the carving. It's probably one of the most elaborate, impressive wats we have visited, not just in LP, but in all our travels. Also, we were the only ones there! I think most people try to hide from the somewhat warmer than comfortable temperatures in the middle of the day, and that's the best time to visit these amazing temples. Also, take your time here, and walk around inside - the tranquility of the place is amazing.
SUMMARY: Unless you have an academic background into Buddhist history it is very difficult to identify the differences between the various temples. They are all beautiful and colorful. Most have golden roofs and white washed walls. They are clean and in pristine condition. This Wat was beautiful and interesting to see. The reality is that you can see most Wats in LP within a few hours because they are generally within walking distance. My advice is to go early before the sun comes up so that you can get the full impact of the rich colors. Once the sun is up, the colors are usually washed out. Going early also avoids the army of tourists that show up later in the morning and throughout the day.
Right next to the Royal Palace Museum, it is the most ornate and decorated in the city. It was built in the 18th century. Even the Chinese Haw raiders did not destroy it because of its beauty.
Gilded side, five-tiled roof is unique and stunning. A Buddha image in emerald is seated in the red-gold interior.
During the Laotian New Year pilgrims outnumber tourists manifesting the centrality of Wat Mai to all Laotian people.
This temple with it's five-tiled roof and ornately carved verandah is spectacular. Another gorgeous place to visit in Luang Prabang.
This is a great temple, the typically Laos murals, the quiet surrounds all lend to a very interesting visit. Around 4.30 or 5.00pm the monks bang the drums and with cymbal player it is a very mystic experience to be there and to watch. A real change from the normal bell ringing.
You can see more Luang Prabang travel guide at here.