Our home away from home in Luang Prabang, Laos sat opposite from the former royal city’s oldest operating temple, Wat Wisunalat (a temple with many variations on its name). 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, and 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 0430. The haunting sound was particularly challenging on the day we both were afflicted with food poisoning and wanted nothing but uninterrupted sleep!
The Wat Wisunalat 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.
Dogs perpetually and playfully 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 and charming with their crooked teeth and colorful costumes.
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Photography & text © Tricia A. Mitchell. All Rights Reserved.