From Gong and Drum Awakening to Sunset at Luang Prabang’s Wat Wisunarat

Our home away from home in Luang Prabang, Laos sat opposite from the city’s oldest operating temple, Wat Wisunarat (also spelled Vat Visounnarath). The temple was built in the early 1500s.

Known for its quiet lanes and thirty temples, Luang Prabang feels authentically Asian. Monks of all ages, clad in saffron-colored robes, pound the pavement in bare feet and sandals. From time to time, you’ll be able to observe, or in our case, hear Buddhist customs being practiced.

We learned that on about four particularly-significant Buddhist holidays per month, the gong is sounded and the drum is played at a temple complex. We happened to have impeccable timing, as we were across the street from this temple on three of those special days. The sounding — which lasted for approximately 30 minutes — would have been the perfect local alarm clock had it not been for its early sounding at 04:30 in the morning. The haunting sound was particularly challenging on the day we both were afflicted with food poisoning and wanted nothing but uninterrupted sleep!

The Wat Wisunarat complex is well known for its unique stupa, That Pathoum, which is nicknamed the “Watermelon Stupa” because of its rounded dome. No other stupas of this kind exist in Laos or perhaps even in Indochina. (Stupas are Buddhist shrines.)

Like some of the other temple complex buildings, the stupa was destroyed during the Black Flag invasion of Luang Prabang in 1887. Many of the Buddha images and relics inside were destroyed. Today, worshippers place marigold flower-studded cone hat–like offerings at the base of the stupa along with balls of sticky rice.

Friendly dogs perpetually roam the property, watched over by the guard-like figures flanking the stairwell.

The statues were intended to be intimidating, I suppose, but I found them rather whimsical with their crooked teeth and colorful costumes.

Where in the World?

Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.

Published by Tricia A. Mitchell

Tricia A. Mitchell is a freelance writer and photographer. Born in Europe but raised in the United States, she has lived in Valletta, Malta; Heidelberg, Germany; and Split, Croatia. An avid globetrotter who has visited more than 65 countries, she has a penchant for off-season travel. Tricia has learned that travel’s greatest gift is not sightseeing, rather it is the interactions with people. Some of her most memorable experiences have been sharing a bottle of champagne with distant French cousins in Lorraine, learning how to milk goats in a sleepy Bulgarian village, and ringing in the Vietnamese New Year with a Hanoi family. She welcomes any opportunity to practice French and German, and she loves delving into a place’s history and artisanal food scene. A former education administrator and training specialist, Tricia has a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and a master’s degree in international relations. She and her husband, Shawn, married in the ruins of a snowy German castle. They’ve been known to escape winter by basing themselves in coastal Croatia or Southeast Asia. Her writing has appeared in Fodor’s Travel, Frommer’s, and International Living.

5 thoughts on “From Gong and Drum Awakening to Sunset at Luang Prabang’s Wat Wisunarat

    1. What a great compliment! Thank you, Ling. No, I haven’t been Freshly Pressed yet – perhaps one of these days… :)

      Here’s wishing you a wonderful weekend – your shots taken through the telescope were great. What a fun perspective!

  1. I am in Luang Prabang right now — for the first time — and absolutely loving it. Came across your photos, which are beautiful and really capture the essence of this mystical place. Look forward to reading more! (I, too, and equal parts nomad and nester… love that description!)

    1. Maia, it’s a pleasure to connect – thank you for stopping by! Lucky you that you’re now in Luang Prabang. I’ve been there twice, but would happily return…there’s that nomadic part again, :-) Will you have a chance to visit other parts of the country?

  2. Pingback: Impulse || Home

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