The next day I visited Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham or simply Wat Mai, which is the biggest Budhhist temple in Luang Prabang. The name Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham means The New Monastery of the Golden Land. Its most notable feature is its wonderful gilded facade
It is not possible to take photographs inside the actual building comprising the Royal Palace but we were able to visit it and it provided a fascinating glimpse into a way of life long past. In the grounds of the Palace is the very ornate building of Wat Ho Pha Bang which was built in 1993.
I went to visit the Xieng Thong temple round the corner from the guesthouse, which was supposed to be the most spectacular in Luang Prabang. 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. Located close to the tip of the Luang Prabang peninsula, where the Nam Khan flows into the Mekong River, Wat Xieng Thong was built by King Setthathirath in 1560, during the golden years of Lan Xang Kingdom. Its gracefully sloping roof and glass murals epitomise the classical Luang Prabang style of temple architecture. Unfortunately the main building was being restored so you couldn’t go in it but the rest was pretty spectacular. On the back of the main building is a mosaic of a tree of life.
Next to the sim of Wat Xieng Thong is a smaller building which the French called La Chapelle Rouge, (English -the Red Chapel). Inside it is a unique reclining black Buddha image with the robe curling outward at the ankle. On the outside of the Red Chapel is an interesting mural showing rural life in Laos.
Facing the same courtyard, is another ornate structure with a façade that is richly carved and layered in gold leaf. This structure houses the funerary chariot of King Sisavong Vang, built in 1960. The funerary chariot occupies almost the whole of the interior. At the back of the building are a some Buddhist figures in the standing pose as well as one in the “calming the flood” pose, each one of them has a different face.