Luang Prabang Temples: Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham

Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham on Sisavangvong street, was once the principle royal monastery of Luang Prabang.

It was also the residence of the chief Laotian Buddhist dignitary (Phra Sangkharat), and the repository of the 33″ high, gold alloy Buddha icon (Phra Bang), that Laung Prabang derives its name from.

It also once held the famed Emerald Buddha, that was moved to Vientiane, before being carted away during the Siamese invasion. (It now resides in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok)

Wat Mai

With the rather tragic end of the monarchy, the Sangkharat moved to Vientiane, and the Phra Bang, to the museum attached to the palace next door. (Presently awaiting transfer to the brand new Haw Phra Bang, the temple constructed inside the Palace grounds specifically for the purpose.) 

But Wat Mai’s religious and cultural significance remains undiminished, and the three day Laotian new Year festival, is said to atract thousands of pilgrims, who come to witness the ceremonial return of the Phra Bang, and the rituals surrounding it.

Wat Mai - Luang Prabang
Rear view of altar.

The Wat dates back to the 17th century, but most of the present structure(s), including the Despite all that grand gilding on the facade, this monastery, with its mystifying placement of Buddhas in the altar, holds a special, almost spiritual appeal. Possibly heightened in our case, by the mesmerizing chanting that we stumbled upon one evening on our way to dinner.

A glimpse of the sacred that we are unlikely to forget.

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Madhu is an Interior designer turned travel blogger on a long sabbatical to explore the world. When not crafting stories on The Urge To Wander, she's probably Tweeting @theurgetowander or sharing special moments on

86 thoughts on “Luang Prabang Temples: Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham

  1. Looking at the stunning pictures of the Wat Mai Suwannaphumaham monastery one can well imagine the surcharge of spiritual energy present inside.
    Thanks for sharing!

    1. It was magical Angeline. We stopped and spent a good while listening to them, and while watching the children at play.

  2. Your photos really capture the moment and feeling, be it kids at play or the spiritual. Yes, the tourists have found LP, but it is worth a visit. Indeed grand.

  3. My last visit to Laos was in the year 1995. My target destination was a project to be inspected up near the Chinese border in the north of the country. Communism had taken away the greatness of that countries past and it was mind boggling for me to see their version of a hospital in that town. I rode from the airport standing in the trailer attached to a three wheeler normally used for ploughing. Slow and bumpy over corrugated roads. The hotel was -5 star but food was excellent. I heard stories of people brainwashed in the most inhumane way by that era’s ruling class. What I saw was a far cry from the beauty you have shown us above but I suppose, like, Myanmar they did preserve an occasional great relic of the past. Being the Golden Triangle I can assure you I walked among the poppies, but did not use their product.

    1. That sounds like quite the adventure Ian! I can imagine life must have been hard during the worst of the communist era. I heard the government is relatively benign and more open these days, but just about.

  4. Beautiful Madhu – don’t you just love it when something like the chanting happens coincidentally and you’re there to see/enjoy it?! Great post!

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