Ho Phra Keo is one of Vientiane’s oldest temples. Built in 1565 by King Setthathirat, the Wat was used as the royal chapel of the Lao Monarchy, but more importantly it was built to house the Emerald Buddha. This sacred statue, which is now housed in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, ended up in Vientiane after the King moved it from Northern Thailand. Ho Phra Keo was destroyed when the Siamese (Thai) invaded the city in 1778 and took the Emerald Buddha back to Siam (Thailand). The Siamese invaded Vientiane again in 1828, once again destroying the temple.
The temple as it is today was rebuilt and finished by 1942, when Laos was controlled by the French. Today it is no longer used as a place of worship, but instead used as a museum displaying some of the best Lao Buddhist sculptures in the country.
Although the current architecture of the temple is relatively new compared to it’s history, it still gives the impression that it is ancient. It hasn’t been painted and decorated in bright colours, the walls and carvings look old and worn, a perfect way to portray it’s history.
At the entrance of the temple are many ancient stone tablets. On each side are a line of incredible bronze Buddha statues, with more statues located at the other end of the temple. Inside Ho Phra Keo is the main museum, which contains an altar for the Emerald Buddha and other Buddhist artefacts, carvings and scriptures.
Each stairway on the temple has dragons running the length of them with their heads at the entrance, guarding the temple.
Surrounding the Wat is a stone and brick wall amongst beautifully manicured gardens, with places to rest and be at peace. A truly great way to take in this incredible temple.
Ho Phra Keo is a place full of memory. It has a lot of stories to tell over nearly 450 years of history. Although it is no longer a place of worship, it is still a very sacred place in Laos, an ancient part of Vientiane.