A must on the agenda for Sofitel Luang Prabang guests is a visit to Wat Xieng Thong. Luang Prabang is legendary for Buddhist temples of remarkable beauty and Wat Xieng Thong is one of the most beautiful and important of them all, it’s a significant monument to the spirit of Lao religion, royalty and traditional art. A symbol of great historic importance, this magnificent temple is characteristic of the Luang Prabang style, featuring an elaborate tree of life mosaic, intricately carved walls, small halls and stupas that contain Buddha images of the period and a 12-metre high funeral carriage. Also known as the ‘Golden Tree Monastery’, Wat Xieng Thong is strategically situated close to where the Mekong joins the Nam Khan River, acting as a gateway to Luang Prabang itself.
This site was used as the location for Lao king coronations and is an important gathering place for significant annual festivities. The original temple was built in 1560 by King Setthathirath and narrowly missed invasion several times. The wat still remains in its original form, but much-needed remodeling took place during the 1960s, including repairs to the roof, gold leaf gilding and gold lacquering restoration added to the walls and entrance. The buildings of Wat Xieng Thong have carved gilded wooden doors depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha. The temple contains an especially rare reclining Buddha that dates from the construction of the temple. In 1931, the image was taken to France and displayed at the Paris Exhibition, after which it was kept in Vientiane until 1964 and ultimately returned to Luang Prabang.
From Sofitel Luang Prabang to Wat Xieng Thong is 2.9 km. A pleasant 20 minute walk, or 8 minutes by tuk-tuk.