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Tags : Buddhist Temple

Timings : 8 AM to 5 PM

Time Required : 1 hour

Entry Fee : 5000 LAK or 0.65 USD per person

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Wat Visoun, Luang Prabang Overview

Wat Visoun or Wat Wisounnalat is an ancient temple located in the old town of Luang Prabang city in Laos. It is the oldest temple of the town and is famous for its magnificent architecture, which became a model for other temple structures in Laos. Wat Visoun is listed as a UNESCO heritage site and is one of the top attractions among tourists visiting Luang Prabang. People visit to learn about the rich history and evolution of a unique style of architecture consisting of layers of roofs, sculpted walls and intricate paintings.

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Best time to visit

The best time to visit Wat Visoun is early in the morning or late afternoon when the weather is pleasant.

What to wear

It is expected that tourists dress appropriately while visiting a Buddhist temple. Women need to cover their shoulder at all times and wear knee-length attire. Sleeveless shirts and shorts are not also allowed for both men and women. The rules are strictly followed, and you might be denied entry by the guards if you fail to obey them. You also need to take off your shoes, hat and sunglasses before entering the temple premises.

Wat Visoun History & Significance

Wat Visoun was built in 1513 during the reign of King Wisunarat. It represents the earliest style of Luang Prabang style or Laos style of architecture including sims or multiple layered roofs, which was adopted by other temples in the country.  The temple was constructed on the rice fields of the sacred guardian spirits of the city. The complex housed the sacred Prabang, the statue of Buddha which was taken to Vientiane in the 18th century.

The temple was destroyed in 1887 when Luang Prabang suffered a defeat against a communal Chinese Haw Black Flags invasion. Like most of the city, the temple was rebuilt during the reign of King Sakkarin Kamsuk. Wat Visoun has living quarters for monks and consist of meditation halls.

Original Architecture of Wat Visoun

The original structure of Wat Visoun was entirely made of wood. The intricately designed Sim made it one of the top monuments in Laos becoming a stepping stone for many centuries. The two-layered roofs were over 36 meters long, constructed using thousands of trees, with twelve tall columns supporting these roofs at 30 meters height. The central premises had hundreds of Buddha statues decorated with precious stones and gems along with rare paintings depicting Buddhist teachings and lives of monks. There was also a wooden tower at the centre in front of the complex.

After most of this wooden structure was destroyed, they were replaced partly by metallic roofs.

The Sims

The most noticeable feature of the rebuilt version of Wat Visoun seen today is a sim, a brick structure consisting of a two-tiered roof. The Sim style is seen in many temples in Laos. The Sim is home to a gilded image of Buddha, considered the largest in Luang Prabang. Around this are many smaller images of Buddha in different meditation styles. The wooden doors of the Sim consist of many detailed carvings of Hindu Gods Shiva, Brahma and Vishnu, partly preserved since the 16th century. 

The huge windows of the complex consist of wooden Naga balustrades resembling those in Angkor temples in Cambodia.

That Pathum Stupa

Another notable feature of the Wisunarat temple is That Pathum or Stupa of the Great Lotus. It is called popularly as That Makmo or The Watermelon Stupa because of its characteristic rounded dome. Located on the northeastern side of the Sim, it was dedicated to the queen.

The stupa stands out due to its dome, which is believed to be influenced by the Sinhalese style of architecture and is the only stupa in Laos with a dome. The stupa houses many gilded gold and bronze images of Buddha.

How To Reach Wat Visoun

Wat Visoun is located in the old town in Luang Prabang next to the Wat Aham on Kingkitsarath road. The best way to reach the temple is on foot, which takes around 20 minutes. You can get to Wat Visoun by hiring a Tuk-Tuk. It costs about 3 USD for a round trip. You can also rent a motorbike for about 10 to 12 USD per day, or you can get there by bike which cost about 3 to 4 USD for rent per day.

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