Most Visited Places in Laos

That Luang – The Golden Stupa of Laos: Your Ultimate Guide to the Grandest Monument in Vientiane

Located in the heart of Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, is That Luang, one of the most revered and grandest monuments in the country. This magnificent golden stupa is the national symbol of Laos, and it has been a sacred site for over two thousand years. The monument is surrounded by lush greenery and is a stunning sight to behold. That Luang is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Laos and is sure to leave you in awe of its beauty and historical significance. Join us on a journey as we explore the history, architecture, and cultural importance of That Luang and provide you with the ultimate guide to visiting this incredible monument. Whether you’re a history buff, architecture lover, or just looking for a unique experience, Luang is a destination that should not be missed.

A Brief History of That Luang

That Luang is one of the most important monuments in the city of Vientiane, Laos. The stupa, which is also known as the Great Stupa or the Golden Stupa, is a symbol of Laos’ Buddhist heritage and national identity. It is believed that the original structure was built in the 3rd century by the Khmer Empire, and it was then rebuilt in the 13th century by King Saysethathirath.

The stupa was built on the site of an earlier Khmer temple, which was dedicated to the Hindu god, Shiva. When the Khmer Empire declined, the temple fell into disrepair, and it was later destroyed by the Siamese in the 1820s. The current structure was built by the French in the late 19th century, as part of their efforts to restore the city’s historical monuments.

The stupa is said to contain a relic of the Buddha, which was brought to Laos by the Indian emperor Ashoka in the 3rd century BCE. The relic was later enshrined in the stupa by King Setthathirath in the 16th century. Today, That Luang is the most important religious monument in Laos, and it is a symbol of the country’s Buddhist faith and cultural heritage. It is also a popular destination for tourists who come to marvel at its grandeur and learn about its rich history.

The Significance of the Golden Stupa in Laos

The That Luang Stupa, also known as the Great Stupa, is an important symbol of Buddhism and the national identity of Laos. The significance of this golden monument can be traced back to the 3rd century when it was first built as a small stupa. Over time, it was destroyed and rebuilt several times, with the most recent restoration taking place in the 1930s under the French colonial government.

The golden stupa is believed to house a sacred relic of Buddha, which was brought to Laos by an Indian missionary in the 3rd century. The current structure stands at 148 feet tall and is covered in gold leaf, making it a stunning sight to behold. The intricate carvings and intricate details on the exterior walls depict scenes from the life of Buddha and the Jataka tales.

The stupa is also an important site for pilgrimages and festivals, particularly during the annual That Luang Festival, which takes place in November and attracts thousands of visitors from around Laos and neighboring countries. During the festival, the stupa is illuminated with thousands of lights, and monks perform religious ceremonies and rituals.

Overall, the golden stupa of That Luang is not only a magnificent architectural marvel but also a symbol of Laos’ cultural and religious heritage. It is a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Vientiane and is sure to leave a lasting impression on visitors.

The Architecture and Design of That Luang

That Luang, or the Great Stupa, is a magnificent structure that showcases the unique architecture and design of Laos. The main stupa stands at a height of 45 meters and is covered in gold leaf, giving it a stunning and radiant appearance. The entire complex is surrounded by a high wall and is accessed through four grand entrances, each facing the cardinal points.

The design of That Luang is based on Buddhist cosmology and incorporates symbols and motifs that hold deep religious significance. The three levels of the stupa represent the three stages of Buddhist enlightenment: the base represents the earthly realm, the middle section represents the spiritual world, and the topmost section symbolizes the ultimate enlightenment and the attainment of nirvana.

The intricate details and decorations of That Luang are breathtaking. The exterior walls are adorned with intricate carvings and images of mythical creatures, while the interior walls are decorated with colorful murals and paintings depicting scenes from Buddhist mythology. The central shrine inside the stupa houses a small golden Buddha statue surrounded by offerings and flowers.

Visitors to That Luang can also explore the surrounding grounds, which include several smaller stupas, statues of Buddha, and beautifully manicured gardens. The entire complex is steeped in history and spiritual significance, making it a must-visit destination for anyone traveling to Laos.

The Legends and Myths Associated with That Luang

That Luang, the Golden Stupa of Laos, is a monument steeped in legends and myths. The most popular legend associated with That Luang is the story of the Indian emperor, Ashoka. According to the legend, Ashoka sent his daughter to Laos with a piece of bone from Buddha’s breastbone, which was then enshrined in That Luang. Thus, That Luang became a highly significant religious site for Laotians, and it is believed that visiting the Stupa brings good luck and blessings.

Another legend associated with That Luang involves a serpent king, Naga. The story goes that the serpent king protected the stupa during its construction, and his spirit still resides in the stupa. It is believed that the serpent king’s spirit keeps the stupa safe from any harm, and his presence makes That Luang an even more sacred site for Laotians.

Apart from these legends, there are also many myths associated with the stupa, such as the story of the magical powers of the stupa that saved it from destruction during wars. These legends and myths have added to the allure of That Luang and have made it a must-visit site for anyone visiting Laos.

It is not just the legend and myths associated with That Luang that make it a significant site, but also the beautiful architecture and the cultural significance it holds for the people of Laos. Visiting That Luang is an experience that will take you back in time and give you a glimpse of the rich history and culture of Laos.

The Religious and Cultural Significance of That Luang to Lao People

That Luang is not just a beautiful and grand monument – it holds a deep religious and cultural significance to the people of Laos. In fact, it is the most important national monument in the country. That Luang serves as a symbol of both the Buddhist religion and the Lao monarchy.

The stupa is also believed to enshrine a relic of the Buddha – a breastbone – making it an extremely sacred site for Buddhists. Additionally, the surrounding complex is home to several important Buddhist temples and shrines, including Wat That Luang Tai, which is believed to be the original home of the That Luang stupa before it was moved to its current location.

The annual That Luang Festival is a major event in Laos, drawing crowds from all over the country to celebrate the monument and its cultural significance. The festival typically takes place in November and includes religious ceremonies, cultural performances, and a large fair with food, games, and entertainment.

Visitors to That Luang should be mindful of the religious significance of the site and show respect by dressing modestly and removing their shoes before entering any temples or shrines. With its rich cultural and religious significance, That Luang is not just a beautiful monument – it is a symbol of Laos’ history and identity.

How to Get to That Luang and When to Visit

Getting to That Luang is relatively easy. The monument is located about 5 kilometers from the city center of Vientiane and can be reached by tuk-tuk, taxi, or private car. If you’re feeling adventurous, you can also rent a bike and cycle there.

When it comes to the best time to visit That Luang, the answer depends on your preferences. If you prefer cooler temperatures and smaller crowds, then the months of November to February would be ideal. However, this is also the peak tourist season, so prices for hotels and transportation may be higher.

If you don’t mind the heat and humidity, then visiting during the off-peak season (May to September) may be more suitable for you. During this time, you’ll also could witness the annual Buddhist festival, Boun That Luang, which takes place in November. This is a great time to visit if you want to experience the local culture and witness the temple’s significance to the Lao people.

Overall, no matter when you choose to visit, make sure to wear comfortable shoes and clothing as you’ll be doing a lot of walking and exploring the grounds of the stupa. And don’t forget to bring a camera to capture the grandeur of That Luang and its surrounding area.

What to Wear and What to Bring for Your Visit

Visiting That Luang, Laos’ most sacred monument, requires proper attire. It’s important to dress respectfully as it is considered a religious site. Both men and women should wear clothing that covers their shoulders and knees. Wearing shorts or sleeveless tops are not allowed, so it’s best to wear long pants or skirts, and shirts with sleeves. Shoes are also required, and it’s best to wear comfortable ones since you’ll be walking around a lot.

If you’re visiting during the hot season, make sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen. The temple grounds can get very hot and humid, especially during the middle of the day. It’s also a good idea to bring some water to stay hydrated.

Aside from attire and accessories, it’s important to bring a camera to capture the beauty of That Luang. It’s a stunning monument that will leave you breathless, so you’ll want to take as many pictures as you can. However, it’s important to ask permission before taking photos of people, especially the monks.

Lastly, don’t forget to bring your respect and reverence. That Luang is a very important religious site for the people of Laos, so it’s important to be mindful of your behavior. Be quiet and respectful while walking around the temple grounds, and don’t touch or climb on any of the structures. If you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to ask the friendly staff or the monks who reside in the temple.

Exploring the Grounds and Attractions of That Luang

That Luang is not only a magnificent golden stupa but a complex of many other temples and attractions, offering a lot to explore for visitors. Once you have admired the stupa, take some time to stroll around the surrounding areas. 

One of the highlights of the complex is the Wat That Luang Tai, also known as the lower temple, which is located south of the stupa. This temple is a great example of traditional Lao architecture, and its interior is adorned with intricate carvings and murals depicting Buddhist stories and legends.

Another temple worth visiting is the Ho Trai, which is a small library building that houses the Buddhist scriptures. The Ho Trai is believed to have been built during the reign of King Setthathirath in the 16th century. 

If you’re interested in learning more about Buddhism, the That Luang complex also has a meditation center and a Buddhist school. Visitors are welcome to attend meditation sessions and learn about Buddhist teachings.

In addition, there are many shops and vendors selling souvenirs, food, and drinks around the complex. You can try some of the local Lao street food or purchase beautiful handicrafts made by local artisans.

Overall, exploring the grounds and attractions of That Luang is a must-do experience for visitors to Vientiane. The complex offers a great insight into Lao culture and tradition and provides a peaceful and serene environment to relax and reflect.

The annual That Luang Festival and Other Celebrations

The annual That Luang Festival is one of the most important celebrations in Laos, and it’s an event that attracts thousands of visitors every year. The festival is held in November and is a three-day event where locals and tourists alike come together to celebrate the golden stupa and give thanks for their blessings.

During the festival, the That Luang stupa is beautifully illuminated, and there are parades, traditional music and dance performances, and food stalls selling local delicacies. Monks from all over the country also gather at the stupa to perform special ceremonies and give blessings to the visitors.

Apart from the That Luang Festival, there are other celebrations that take place at the stupa throughout the year. For example, in May, there is the Visakha Puja, which celebrates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. This is another important event for the people of Laos, and it’s a great time to visit the stupa and witness the colorful festivities.

Other celebrations that take place at That Luang include the Boat Racing Festival, the Rocket Festival, and the Wax Castle Festival. All of these events are steeped in tradition and are a great way to experience the local culture and customs.

If you’re planning a trip to Laos, it’s worth checking the calendar to see if any of these festivals coincide with your visit. Attending one of these celebrations is a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture and witness the grandeur of That Luang firsthand.

Conclusion and Why That Luang is a Must-visit Monument in Vientiane, Laos.

In conclusion, That Luang is undeniably a must-visit monument in Vientiane, Laos. It’s not just a golden stupa but a great symbol of the country’s history, religion, and culture. The grandeur of the stupa, combined with its unique architecture, make it an impressive sight to behold and a testament to Laos’ rich heritage. 

Visiting That Luang provides an opportunity to learn about Laos’ Buddhist culture and history, and marvel at the intricate designs and details of the stupa. The surrounding area is also filled with interesting things to do and see, including a museum dedicated to the history of That Luang and Laos.

Whether you’re a history buff, an architecture enthusiast, or just someone looking to experience the beauty of Laos, a visit to That Luang is highly recommended. It’s a place where you can appreciate the grandeur of a monument that has stood the test of time and has become an integral part of the country’s identity. So, don’t forget to add That Luang to your itinerary when you’re in Vientiane, Laos and witness the magnificence of this golden stupa for yourself.

We hope you have enjoyed our ultimate guide to That Luang – The Golden Stupa of Laos. It is truly a grand monument that is worth visiting when in Vientiane. With our tips and information about the history and significance of That Luang, we hope you are now equipped to plan your visit and gain an even deeper appreciation of this magnificent structure. Make sure to take lots of pictures and share them with us! Safe travel!