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March 24, 2012

Wat Xieng Thong

Wat Xieng thong is the largest and most splendid temple (“wat”) of Luang Prabang royal city. It was built on the Mekong River bank in 1560, under the reign of King Setthathirat (1548 - 1571). The temple is best known for its impressive mural Tree of Life describing Buddhist story.

The best time to visit this temple is the early morning: you can capture the best light for successful pictures. You'll also enjoy cooler temperatures and fewer tourists.


There are many legends about the place where the Nam Khan enters the Mekong. It is believed to be the site where the two hermits, who founded Luang Prabang, placed the boundary stone for the new settlement. Another story tells about a betel merchant with the name of Chanthapanit who built a palace on this site, making himself the first king of the new capital. It has been said that he was the first founder of Wat Xieng Thong. The union of the Nam Khan with the Mekong is also said to be the home of two nagas (water spirits in the form of large snakes), the guardians of the river. A shrine to the nagas existed at the site until recently.


During the 1960s Wat Xieng Thong was completely remodeled with sweeping roof. The entrance was redecorated and gilded. Both the interior and the exterior walls were covered with black, glossy lacquer. On the back wall, a large mural named “a tree of life” was set in colored glass mosaics. The sophisticated decoration of Wat Xieng Thong represents amazing skills of Lao artisan.

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