Temples of Laos: Pha That Luang, Vientiane

Pha That Luang isn’t actually a temple, but a grand stupa (chedi) in the heart of Vientiane, and I think it deserves a post of it’s own along side the temples of Laos.

Pha That Luang from a distance in Vientiane, Laos

Walking up to Pha That Luang

According to the Lao people, legend says that Pha That Luang was originally built as a temple that dates back to the 3rd century, however it is known to have been re-built as a Khmer style temple in the 13th century.

The stupa called Pha That Luang began construction in 1566 after King Saysetthathirath moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. This stupa stayed mostly intact until 1828 when it was destroyed by the Thai army when they invaded Laos.

The stupa remained as a ruin until the early 20th century when it was unsuccessfully restored by the French, and then eventually completely re-built to what it is today in the 1930’s.

With such a long history, it makes sense that Pha That Luang stands as a monument to Laos and is actually the largest and grandest stupa in the entire country, measuring 45m in height.

King Saysetthathirath monument at Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

King Saysetthathirath monument in front of Pha That Luang

I actually walked all the way to Pha That Luang from the river front via Patuxai, and by the time I got there I was quite hot and tired. So I grabbed a cold drink and sat in the shade of the trees nearby to wait out the heat of the midday sun.

As I sat there admiring the stupa from the outside, two full bus loads of Thai tourists turned up and rushed through the grounds clicking their cameras. Within about 15 minutes they were all rushing back out towards their bus. I was glad that I had waited.

Pha That Luang from outside in Vientiane, Laos

Pha That Luang from outside the walls

Now with the area seemingly empty of other people, I made my way in through the gate, paid my 5000kip entrance fee and explored the stupa, which I basically had to myself. Here’s what I found inside the walls:

A shrine at Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

There is a shrine on each side of Pha That Luang

Close up of Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

Close up of Pha That Luang

Courtyard at Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

The grounds inside the walls that surround the stupa

Gates at Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

Locked gates to the entrance of the stupa

Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

Pha That Luang

A naga (dragon) lines a stair case at Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

A Naga (dragon) lines a stair case that leads up to a shrine

Flower decorations at Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

Flower decorations in the shrine

Buddhist flower offering at Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos

An offering inside the shrine

Pha That Luang in black and white in Vientiane, Laos

Pha That Luang in black and white

I spent some time exploring the stupa and just sitting in peace, grateful to be in such a beautiful place.

Pha That Luang is one of the most popular attractions in Vientiane and for good reason. It’s just beautiful! Definitely check it out if you’re heading to the sleepy capital of Laos.

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15 comments… add one
  • The Travel Fool Apr 6, 2012

    Great photos, Laos is one place I would love to visit.

    • Dean Wickham Apr 6, 2012

      Thanks mate. Laos is a place that I highly recommend visiting.

  • Awesome photos! Looks like you came across a lot of interesting things.

    • Dean Wickham Apr 11, 2012

      Cheers Brock! It’s pretty easy to find interesting things in Laos :)

  • That’s a lotta gold!

    • Dean Wickham Apr 11, 2012

      It sure is! Imagine if it was all real gold? Cheers Stephanie

  • Pamela Apr 11, 2012

    I can’t believe how amazingly detailed and beautiful they are.

  • Wanderplex Apr 18, 2012

    Beautiful photos! I particularly love that intricate gate with the Buddha design in it – never seen anything like that before!

    • Dean Wickham Apr 18, 2012

      Thanks Reena. I was quite impressed with that gate as well, and think it came up quite nicely in black and white. Cheers

  • Bama Apr 23, 2012

    Oh yeah, I’m going to visit this place two weeks from now. Really can’t wait! Btw your pictures gave me some ideas of what to take some photographs of.

    • Dean Wickham Apr 23, 2012

      That’s great Bama. I hope you have a wonderful time! Are you going elsewhere in Laos as well?

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