Wat Xieng Thong
Khem Khong street, Luang Prabang, LaosGetting there
Access The temple Wat Xieng Thong Nam Khan is located at the end of the historic city of Luang Prabang, Laos, in the Khem Khong Street, opposite the Mekong River and very close to the river.
In this area of the city of Luang Prabang, there are no buses, therefore to visit Temple Wat Xieng Thong alternatives are walking from the Royal Palace, or use a tuk-tuk, where the race to the Wat Xieng Thong Temple will cost about 20,000 kip (approx. €2).Telephone
+92 300 3728669More information Prices
Admission 20,000KOpening hours
Daily from 8am - 5pm
The best example of the beauty of the Buddhist architecture of Luang Prabang is the Wat Xieng Thong Temple. This Wat Xieng Thong Temple, built in the year 1560 and whose literal translation means Temple of the Golden City, is a masterpiece decorated with mosaics and carvings in wood that Nam Khan rises next to the Mekong River and the River in the historic centre of the city of Luang Prabang (Laos).
The Wat Xieng Thong, "monastery of the golden city", is the religious emblem of Luang Prabang and one of the highest symbols of Buddhism in Laos which was the reason why it was spared from the plunder of 1887.
It was considered as the architectural reference of Luang Prabang with a very pointed vihan which comes down very low (more information on this subject in the article on religious architecture.)
The most historic and enchanting Buddhist monastery in the entire country, Wat Xieng Thong, the Golden City Monastery, should not be missed. Near the northernmost tip of the peninsula, the temple compound alone is a delight to wander through, especially early in the morning before the tourist crowds descend on it. The main temple or sim was built in 1560 by King Setthathilat (who then promptly moved the capital of the Kingdom of a Million Elephants downriver to Vientiane) and it is this wonderfully graceful building that dominates the monastery. Unlike nearly every other temple in Luang Prabang, this sim was not razed by Chinese marauders in the nineteenth century or overenthusiastically restored in the twentieth. Indeed, an old photograph taken under Auguste Pavie’s direction shows the temple to have changed little in the last century.
You’ll need to stand at a distance to get a view of the roof, the temple’s most outstanding feature. Elegant lines curve and overlap, sweeping nearly to the ground, and evoke a bird with outstretched wings or, as the locals say, a mother hen sheltering her brood. The walls of the sim are decorated inside and out with stencilled gold motifs on a black or maroon background. As you enter the dimly lit temple and your eyes adjust to the lack of light, the gold-leaf patterns seem to float on the blackened walls.
Besides stylized floral designs, the motifs depict a variety of tales, including the Lao version of the Ramayana, scenes from the Jataka and stories about the lives of the Buddha, as well as graphic scenes of punishments doled out in the many levels of Buddhist hell. In one of these punishment scenes, on the wall to the right of the main entrance, an adulterous couple is being forced to flee a pack of rabid dogs by climbing a tree studded with wicked thorns. Other unfortunate souls are being cooked in a copper cauldron of boiling oil (for committing murder) or are suspended by a hook through their tongues (guilty of telling lies).
In the rafters above and to the right of the main entrance runs a long wooden aqueduct or trough in the shape of a mythical serpent. During Lao New Year, lustral water is poured into a receptacle in the serpent’s tail and spouts from its mouth, bathing a Buddha image housed in a wooden pagoda-like structure situated near the altar. A drain in the floor of the pagoda channels the water through pipes under the floor of the sim and the water then pours from the mouth of a mirror-spangled elephant’s head located on the exterior wall.
Covering the exterior of the back wall of the sim is a mosaic, said to depict a legendary flame tree that stood on the site when the city was founded. This particular composition is especially beautiful during the Festival of Lights, when the sim is decked out with khom fai dao, star-shaped lanterns constructed of bamboo and mulberry paper. The flickering candlelight illuminates the tree and animals in the mosaic, making them twinkle magically.
To the left of the sim, as you face it, stands a small brick-and-stucco shrine containing a standing Buddha image. The purple and gold mirrored mosaics on the pediments of the structure are especially intricate and probably the country’s finest example of this kind of ornamentation, which is thought to have originated in Thailand and spread to Burma as well. Directly behind the shrine is a larger structure known to French art historians as “La Chapelle Rouge”, the Red Chapel. The reclining Buddha image enshrined within is one of Laos’s greatest sculptures in bronze.
Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most important of Lao monasteries and remains a significant monument to the spirit of religion, royalty and traditional style of a fascinating city. There are over twenty structures on the grounds including shrines, pavilions and residences, in addition to its gardens of various flowers, ornamental shrubs and trees. Many of the structures are notable, in addition to the magnificent sim, several deserve special attention.
Wat Xieng Thong was built 1559-1560 by the Lao King Setthathirath near where the Mekong and Nam Khan rivers join. Until 1975 the wat was a royal temple under the patronage of the royal family and the Lao kings were crowned in the wat. The wat is considered as representing typical Laos art and craft. The building of the wat have carved gilded wooden doors depicting scenes from Buddha's life. In the sim the ceiling displays Dharmachakras - dharma wheels symbolising Buddhist law and the circle of reincarnation. The outer walls of the sim depict Lao legends and the rear gable is decorated with a glass mosaic depicting the tree of life. The outer walls of the Sanctuary of the Reclining Buddha, also known as Red Chapel, are decorated with mosaics.
In 1880, the Tripitaka library was added and then the drum tower in 1961. This temple, along with Wat Suwannaphumaham, was spared by any damage during the sacking of the city in 1887. This was because the Black Flag Haw leader, Đèo Văn Trị, had studied here as a monk in his early life, and used it as his headquarters during the sacking of Luang Phrabang. On one side of the sim, there are several small halls and stupas that contain Buddha images of the period. There is a reclining Buddha sanctuary, which contains an especially rare reclining Buddha that dates from the construction of the temple. In 1931, the image was taken to Paris and displayed at the Paris Exhibition and was kept in Vientiane until 1964, where it returned to Luang Phrabang. In the near compound's eastern gate stands the royal funerary carriage house, where it houses the funeral carriage, which stands 12 metres high and there are various urns for the members of the royal family.
A number of restorations have taken place in the twentieth century, included a notable one in which the French participated. In 1928, when the French Governor General visited Luang Prabang, the King Sisavangvong successfully demanded that the French share in the cost of restoration. Major projects took place in the 1950s and 1960s, when the funerary carriage house was built, and especially in more recent times to repair the damage brought by years of neglect because of wars and neglect.
The Tree of Life
The most valuable and well known legacy of the temple Wat Xieng Thong is a mosaic in a tree called the tree of life, representing the legend of construction of the temple Wat Xieng Thong.
The tree of life mosaic is made of glass of Red, work of a master craftsman Lao in the year 1960, posted on the back of the main temple wall of Wat Xieng Thong.
Legend of how the tree of life mosaic has built the temple Wat Xieng Thong, whose legend has it that 2 hermits decided to create the temple next to a tree of fire on the banks of the river.
The funeral carriage
One of unique relics that keeps the temple Wat Xieng Thong is a funeral carriage, the carriage is located in a building decorated with teak wood carvings painted in golden color of exquisite detail, these wood carvings depicting scenes from the book Holy Ramayana.
The funeral carriage once toured the streets of the city of Luang Prabang, carrying the mortal remains of the last Kings of Laos. It impresses the detail of the float with the 7-headed serpent.
This carriage, whose name is Royal cremation chariot, carries an urn containing the remains of the last Kings of Laos.
The chariot of cremation occupies the entire space, leaving only a small hole next to the walls occupied by statues of Buddha. The walls are decorated with mosaics representing everyday scenes of life in Laos.
The ordination hall of Wat Xieng Thong
The most important building of all who make up Wat Xieng Thong is the ordination Hall, main building decorated in wood and whose rear façade is the tree of life.
The most impressive of the ordination Hall are roofs on three levels that descend almost to touch the ground, with the rising of the Sun, Golden wood carvings show all its brilliance and splendor, a very nice contrast dark wood with carved gilded counterpart of the mosaics in blue base glass.
Inside the ordination hall where kings were crowned until 1975, there is a small altar.
The Red Hood
One of the largest structures near the main temple is known by French historians such as La Chapelle Rouge, i.e. the Red Chapel. Inside is a bronze sculpture of reclining Buddha believed dates back to the origins of the temple Wat Xieng Thong.
The Tripitaka Seller
He was built in 1828 the Tripitaka library which is to host the sacred Tripitaka Scriptures, this building is closed and is not possible to access to its interior.
Seated Buddha Pavilion
This small canopy supported by 4 columns double roof called the Pavilion of the seated Buddha located in the gardens of the temple Wat Xieng Thong.
Patio and gardens of Wat Xieng Thong
In the courtyard of the temple Wat Xieng Thong highlight is the drum tower, pavilion sitting Buddha and stupas which decorate the place.
Next to the flag of the sitting Buddha stupas there are 2, one of these stupas is beautifully decorated with blue mosaic crystals.
How to get to the temple Wat Xieng Thong
The temple Wat Xieng Thong Nam Khan is located at the end of the historic city of Luang Prabang, Laos, in the Khem Khong Street, opposite the Mekong River and very close to the river.
In this area of the city of Luang Prabang, there are no buses, therefore to visit Temple Wat Xieng Thong alternatives are walking from the Royal Palace, or use a tuk-tuk, where the race to the Wat Xieng Thong Temple will cost about 20,000 kip (approx. €2).
Entrance fee and opening hours of Wat Xieng Thong
The price of the entrance to Wat Xieng Thong are 20,000 kip (approx. €2, see) Currency of Laos(), ticket purchased at the makeshift box office in the form of plastic at the main entrance of Wat Xieng Thong, nothing more to climb the stairs to the temple.
The opening hours of Wat Xieng Thong is from 8:00 until 17:30 uninterrupted
Dress code of Wat Xieng Thong
To visit the Wat Xieng Thong Temple it is necessary to follow a dress code, for example women must cover the legs with a long skirt or pants. For those who do not meet this standard, they can rent a Laotian long skirt by 5000 kip at the box office of Wat Xieng Thong.
It is a Buddhist temple therefore sunglasses should be removed and bare shoulders and legs covered. There is a small entrance fee and visitors may hire a traditional sarong to cover up if they need to. Souvenirs are also available for sale close to the temple entrance.
Reviews by visitors
This temple is in a great location and is great to look around. The temples are very interesting to look around but there is a lack of information displayed about the place. I would recommend bringing a camera and walking shows. It's should take about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
The most beautiful temple with many surrounding buildings. I went there twice . In the morning sun the colourful glass mosaic and gold were shining and it was gorgeous. The guide will tell you the legends pictured on the walls of the buildings . Even if you think you've seen enough Vats ( temples) this is a must see!
Visited here in May 2016 and was floored by the beauty and majesty of this place! Golden paint work on the walls, the statues in the main sanctum- all are fabulous. Ticket costs 20K kip (USD 2.5). This is a large compound which has 6-8 structures including one that houses a giant chariot for various festive ceremonies.
Easy to find, you are required to cover up in the temple (shoulders and to the knee) unlike many other temples! (When you'd expect to do this for all) It's 20,000 entry and if you need they have sarongs to rent for 5,000. Beautiful temple just a little noisy at the moment but the heritage site is undergoing restoration works
In the centre of Luang Prabang adjacent to the main street i- the temple and palace can be found that are worthwhile and provide an historic insight into the royal family and the subsequent communist ruling party.
Interestingly the temple is only about 10 years old , but looks much older with the paint peeling off.
On the day we were there, you couldn't access the temple.
Just make sure you take a sarong/trousers as shorts are not permitted and shoes must be removed.
No visit to Luang Prabang is complete until this temple is visited. There are many more Wats in and around town, but this is the most splendid and visitor-friendly. One thing to remember: when entering temples shoes have to be removed and left at the door; it's therefore advisable to wear sandals or crocs, not lace-up shoes ... saves a lot of time (though chairs are always provided for those who struggle to get their shoes back on).
The Wat Xieng Thong most impressive building is the temple’s main congregation hall. Both the interior and outside walls are extensively decorated with intricate gold stencilling on black lacquer. I especially love the stunning red mosaic motif of the Tree of Life on the exterior rear wall of the congregation hall. Another building you would not missed in the temple grounds is another prayer hall which is basically all covered in Gold. You would find many Buddha statues and the royal funeral carriage decorated with Naga snakes in it. Overall, a very beautiful and peaceful temple complex.
A superb example of Buddhist architecture, located near to the confluence of the Mekong and Nam Khan. Although there are a great many fine temples in the city, this is the standout, with a wide range of beautifully decorated buildings, many recently restored. The only drawback is the lack of information in English-or other languages beside Laotian!
Must visit temple in Luang Prabang. The decoration outside "Sim or Church" is so charming ! Better visit there around 15.00-16.00 coz the decorated tree at the back of church temple will be very beautiful. Entrance fee: 20,000 LAK per person
Calm and peaceful place by Mekong river, come here around 4pm - 5pm to see golden temple flaming under sunlight. In front of main gate you can find a boat to cross Mekong river and visit some another pagodas which can be reached by walking through jungle follow hidden trails with lotuses and not many travelers know this.
Women please remember to cover your shoulders and legs when visit pagodas and temples here.
Nice place to come by and easy to find. Suit for take a shot. Peaceful place. Need to pay an entrance fee.
I went there in late morning. Entrance fee is 20,000 kib. The buildings have very beautiful proportions and over the centuries, they have been intricately decorated. It is a very peaceful place with a location close to the Khong river.
Don't miss the stunning mosaic of a large Bodhi tree located on the exterior wall of the main temple and the mosaics on the walls of some of the other smaller buildings on the grounds.
I may be in minority here but while the temple is beautiful I would not call it a spectacular (as it was described) that justifies the entrance fee. It's a small temple - very similar in architecture of the temples you see in northern Thailand.
The reason I was not blown away, I guess, is because there are more grander temples in Asia like in Myanmar, Cambodia, and Thailand. And in that sense, as a tourist, I was just comparing it objectively more than anything - and having said that I'm sure it has its own significance among its the people and culture.
One can easily fit this attraction in their trip agenda while taking a walk though beautiful Khem Khong loop along Mekong (which in itself should an activity one must fo)
The interiors contain major religious monuments and endless gold wall paintings of buddhist legends. Enchanting. Truly one of the world's unique collections of buildings--they look small, elegant, graceful, and are covered with amazing mosaics of brightly coloured mirrored glass,
My friend ask me to buy this paint as a gift. The first time, it's impressive to see, but I dont have enough time to buy. And that is sin. Can find it in others. Then, I have to come back for buying. They sell them on the ticket box. Dont skip it unless you wanna come back there again.
The workmanship is stunning and the maintenance is impeccable. Don't forget to chat with Unta the temple guard. He will show you how to make the gong sing. It's a sound you won't forget!
Its fitting to say this ancient temple has stood the test of time. From foriegn invasions to indigenous conflicts in the past, this temple has probably seen it all and still standing. The carasel on the gold dragon looking boat inside the temple was often a symbol of the former Royal regime and although now defunct, it serves now as a museum piece for people to see. Just remember, before going into any temple in Laos, take off your shoes. Just a heads up. If you like seeing ancient temple artifacts, then this place is for you.
There is no shortage of temples in Luang Prabang - 33 in the UNESCO heritage area - and this is one of the biggest and most interesting. See it first before you decide you've seen enough temples for one holiday.
You have to pay an entrance fee (and be dressed appropriate). The temples are beautiful and you can go into different ones. Also a great view onto the Mekong. One of the most famous temples of Luang Prabang.
There's a lot of mosaic going on in this temple, including a huge Tree of Life, and lots of farmyard animals etc. The temple is in a large courtyard which is very peaceful to walk around. I'd recommend going early in the morning before it gets too crowded.
It costs 20k to get in, and an extra 5k if you need a sarong to cover yourself up.
This must-see Luang Prabang temple , which is also the oldest , is an easy walk from the town centre and ideal for the first temple visit of your stay. Two or three other temple visits can also be taken in easily on the way back.
Lovely ensemble to stroll around. Several pagodas some with gorgeous colored tile scenes others with colorful mosaics. The beautiful King's chariot is housed in one elaborately decorated building. Beautiful painted woodwork.
If you must visit just one temple in LP, this has to be the one. Very beautiful and impressive temples. We visited there twice during our trip - one very early in the morning (8am) and another time in the evening. Both times appeared to be very peaceful and calm, with very few visitors. Don't miss the "Tree of Life", and climb up to the small shrine directly opposite and observe the Buddha through the keyhole.
You can see more Luang Prabang travel guide at here.