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"Haw Pha Kaew - a temple awaiting a Buddha" Vientiane Things to Do Tip by mke1963

Vientiane Things to Do: 301 reviews and 664 photos

In 1779, the Siamese monted one of their many raids of the Lao kingdom, and, as usual, sacked the town of Vientiane. They carried off the Emerald Buddha and it remains in Bangkok to this day. Some Lao people suggest that until both the Pha Bang and the Emerald Buddha are back home, there will be bad luck for Laos. (The Pha Bang is in Luang Phabang).
The Emerald Buddha waits for the return of its icon, and in the meantime, the Haw Pha Kaew houses the finest collection of Buddhist art and artefacts in Laos.
Particularly notable in side are the spectacular carved 16th century sanctuary doors (at the very back), some 13th Century Buddhas, and a number of Buddhas in the Khmer style. The well-known candle-holder was, rather sadly, festooned with a string of Christmas lights, and the resulting glow of the tiny bulbs made it difficult to appreciate the craftmanship. It is also hidden away behind other objects.
As at all Lao temples, there was little information available for reading or for sale, which is always a loss of potential revenue for the museum.
On the terrace at the entrance are some beautiful large stone Buddhas that catch the morning sun through the frangipani trees in the garden. Below the steps at that end are two curious animist (?) statues (I think I read somewhere what they were, but have forgotten. Damn! I'll just have to go back to Vientiane to look at them again!!)
The garden is fringed, like so many places in Laos, with frangipani trees: these fragile trees seem to be so apporpriate for the national symbol of Laos: beautiful at any time of the year, but easy to break and damage; the flowers appearing even on the bare branches.
Near the entrance, under a pavilion, is one of the jars from the Plain of Jars, but its presence in a garden seems so inappropriate and reduces the jar to that of a garden ornament. If anything, this inappropriate setting may actually deter visitors from making the trip to Phonsavan.An intriguing, decaying French colonial building lies to the south of Haw Pha Kaew.

Address: East Setthathilat Road
Directions: Just across the street from Wat Sisaket, and conviently next door to the Presidential Palace.

Review Helpfulness: 2.5 out of 5 stars

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  • Written Jan 11, 2004
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