The Haw Phra Kaew was destroyed when the Siamese armies invaded Vientiane in 1827. Since then it has been rebuilt and restored several times; the current structure dates from 1942, when it was restored by the French. The temple is surrounded by well kept gardens. An item of particular interest on display in the garden is a 2,000 year old stone jar from the Plain of Jars.
The sim or congregation hall has a large multi tiered roof adorned with Naga finials and an ornamental “Dok so faa” at its center. The stairway to the main and side entrances carry a mythological Naga snake with its head looking away from the temple, the serpent’s body extending over the balustrade towards the temple. The intricately decorated gable shows Buddhist scenes and a depiction of the three headed elephant Erawan in gold color on a red background.
The sim is surrounded by a gallery, its roof supported by rows of large pillars. On the veranda is a display of 18th century bronze Buddha images and other artifacts. At the veranda’s front is a number of large standing images, as well as a number of ancient inscribed steles and stone slabs with Buddhist sculptings. A large wooden box was used to store the Tripitaka, the ancient manuscripts containing the teachings of the Buddha. The side galleries contain seated Buddha images on pedestals in the Bhumisparsha mudra of “Calling the Earth to witness”.
How to get to Haw Phra Kaew
The Haw Phra Kaew is found on the intersection of Setthathirath road and Mahasot road next to the Presidential Palace and across the street from the Wat Si Saket in the old center of Vientiane. It is within walking distance from many of the town’s sights. A tuk tuk ride will cost around 20,000 Kip from downtown Vientiane, depending on your bargaining skills and distance. An enjoyable way to get there is on a rented bicycle, that cost around 10,000 Kip per day.