I left the hostel early morning so that I can visit the famous Pha That Luang in Vientiane, Laos. I walked for 15 minutes from Lucky Backpackers hostel to a bus stop beside Talat Sao Shopping mall. A bus was parked waiting for passengers and I approached the driver and asked if they would pass by Pha That Luang. They surely would so I eagerly hopped on and waited for our departure. The bus was old but the ride was fine. Bus fee was only 4000 kip.
I regularly checked my google map if I was near. Good thing the driver dropped me off at the bus stop at the entrance. The parking lot was empty. I thought there were no other tourists yet so I went straight for it and enjoyed the solitude of this visit.
I paid 10,000 kip for the entrance fee. When I entered the site, a group of foreign tourists was already there in front of the Stupa offering their prayers with a monk leading the ritual. They chanted and said their prayers as they walked around this Buddhist stupa.
First thing I was really fascinated about the stupa was the gold color itself. I thought it was just painted but it was literally gold. It is covered with 500 kilos of gold leaf. Amazing!
Pha That Luang has become the Laotian national symbol. It was built in 1566 when King Setthathirath made Vientiane the new capital of Laos. The building itself has many references to the Lao culture. It consists of three levels which are believed to symbolize ascension from Earth to Heaven. The first level is said to represent the underworld. There are small “prayer gates” located at the center of each side of the wall. the second level with the 30 stupas represent 30 perfections of Buddhism, and the final level with the one big stupa in the middle represents the opening to heaven.
History tells that this great golden stupa has been invaded, looted and reconstructed several times over the past years. During the invasion of the Kingdom of Siam, the Pha That Luang was entirely abandoned after the place was destroyed and the gold stolen. Then the French decided to restore the place in 1900 and yet to be rebuilt for the second time in 1930. Then it was again destroyed during the war between the Thais and the French in 1940. Then it was rebuilt after World War 2.
Pha That Luang is considered as one of the best architectural works of Buddhism around the world. Since it is 45 meters high, it really is huge up-close. I felt it’s magnificence when I stood near it.
I can't stay long enough as I wanted to but I was happy to visit this splendid place. I went outside to check the remaining structures surrounding the golden stupa. There were the Saysettha garden which is in front of the golden stupa and the Hor Dhammasabha - a convention hall for events, a reclining Buddha, and other stupas and pavilions sheltering Buddha images which is an open access for all. My short visit here at Pha That Luang was satisfying and showed the immense pride of the Laotian people. I backtracked to the entrance where I waited for a bus to take me back to the Talat Sao Shopping Mall.
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