The Golden Temple of Pha That Luang
- Location: That Luang Road, Vientiane, Laos
- Entrance Ticket: 5000Kip/person
- Opening Hours: every day of the week in hours from 8:00 up to 12:00 and from 13:00 until 16:00.
- Tips: the best time to visit is in the evening, when you can enjoy the sunset glow reflected on the tower.
The Golden Temple of Pha That Luang is located in the northeast of Vientiane City, the capital of Laos. It is about 4 kilometers away from the city center. There is a huge golden stupa inside the temple, which was built in the year 1566. Its golden color is not painting, but it is literally covered in gold. The beautiful Golden Temple of Pha That Luang is the most important national monument in Laos. It is a common symbol of Buddhism and the sovereign country of Laos. The image of the golden stupa also once appeared in the national emblem. So the Golden Temple of Pha That Luang is the most sacred place in the minds of Laos.
Pha That Luang refers to Royal Stupa or Great Stupa. Legend has it that it was originally built in the third century, the early fourth century, or the sixth century. And some people even say that it was founded by Asokan missionaries who erected the shrine to enclose a breastbone of Buddha himself. When this tower was originally built, it was just a small tower on a square stone mound.
In 1566, the king of the kingdom of Lan Xang, Setthathirat, built a large stupa on the basis of the small stupa. And he built 30 small stupas around the big stupa to commemorate the 30 kinds of blessings of the Buddha. It was said that the hair and bones of Sakyamuni Buddha (the founder of Buddhism) was buried under the stupa.
In the mid of the 16th century, it was restored by King Xaiyasetthathirat when he moved the capital of Laos from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. The temple was said to have four wats (temples) built around the stupa with one on each corner. But today, there are only two of them left. They are the Wat That Luang Neua and the Wat That Luang Tai.
In 1828, the Great Stupa, as well as some other temples and houses in Vientiane were destroyed by the invading Kingdom of Siam. The existing Great Stupa was repaired in 1900 under the French colony in its original design, and it was entirely finished until 1930. After the victory of the Lao People Revolutionary Party, the temple was transformed to accommodate the seemingly new era of Laos.
The Golden Temple of Pha That Luang is a group of Buddhist buildings in a brick and stone structure, covering an area of more than 8400 square meters. The whole building is square. It is built with gray brick in a unique architectural style.
Pha That Luang is a massive monument and the main building in the temple. It has a unique, pyramid-like shape and is over 147 feet tall. Pha That Luang is surrounded by 30 smaller spire-shaped stupas at the base, which represents 30 kinds of blessings of the Buddha. The associated temple around the stupa also contains all kinds of statues and paintings of the Buddha, as well as altars that are used in Laotian festivals throughout the year.
The base of the Pha That Luang is composed of three-tire square stones, and there are worship pavilions in the middle of the four sides. Each level is narrower than the previous level. The three tires mean the three realms of Buddhism, and also symbolize the ascent from the Earth to the sky. The main stupa is built on the third floor. The entire building is square in the bottom, round in the upper part, and tapered in the spire. Under the sunshine, the Pha That Luang looks glittering and dazzling.
The first tier is 69 meters wide from east to west, and 68 meters long from south to north. There is a worship pavilion in the center of each side, which houses a small tower. This is built for the public to worship.
The second tier is square, with a length of 48 meters on the side. It is surrounded by 120 carved lotus petals and 228 leaves. There is a Buddha statue in the middle of each leaf. There are 30 smaller spire-shaped stupas built in this floor. There are smaller stupas inside, where house gold leaves.
The main stupa is built on the third tier. The stupa is 45 meters high, 54 meters wide and 30 meters long. The main tower rises on a semi-spherical bubble-shaped pedestal. The spire is 45 meters high, and there are 24 large lotus petals surrounding the pedestal. There are cloisters around the tower. Each side is 91 meters long, displaying some ancient Buddha statues and cultural relics.
Around the tens of meters away, the Pha That Luang is a square gallery. Buddhism's hair and bones are buried here. There are bronze statues of King Sethathirath outside the west gate of Pha That Luang.
Pha That Luang has become an indispensable part of the life of the Lao people. Regardless of its geographical location, social status and architectural art, it is a place of pride for the Lao people. In commemoration of the 2,500th anniversary of Buddhism, the lotus-shaped base and top have been refurbished with gold and platinum.
What to See
The Golden Temple of Pha That Luang is the most magnificent Pha That Luang in Laos. The whole stupa is covered with real gold. Even if it is cloudy, this golden stupa can be seen from a distance. It is said that the hair and bones of Buddha Shakyamuni are buried under the Pha That Luang. The golden stupa is the main attraction in this temple.
The temple holds the Boun That Luang Festival at the beginning of November every year on the Gregorian calendar. During the festival, monks and devotees come from all over the country endlessly to attend religious activities. There will be a grand temple fair in the square, and cultural and sports performances will also be held in the square. It is the most important and greatest religious festival in Laos. If you happen to be traveling in Laos in early November, do not miss to see the festival.
How to Get to the Golden Temple of Pha That Luang
It is located a bit far away from the city center of Vientiane ( Laos), in the area of Ban Nongbone, approximately 4 kilometers northeast of downtown in Vientiane. The best way to get there is by taking a Tuk-Tuk. It costs about 50,000Kip to take a Tuk-Tuk to travel from downtown.