Temple is the beating heart of community life
Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

A hilltop is always the best place to watch a sunset or sunrise and if you happen to be in Huayxai district, Bokeo province, the Chomkhao Manirat Temple is the ideal site from which to watch the sun as it sinks over the Mekong River.
Everyone knows Chomkhao Manirat Temple if you mention Huayxai district because it’s the biggest temple in the area and is dramatically situated at the top of a hill, with entrance free to anyone who is prepared to climb the steep stairway.
The temple is home to about 70 monks and novices and has its own secondary and primary schools in the grounds.
You can learn about the origins of the temple and how it relates to the settlement of Huayxai in years gone by.

Chomkhao Minirat Temple.

At the entrance of the temple building there’s a fascinating painting depicting the folktale about Sithon and Manola. The adjoining wall is also covered with a series of murals portraying the tale of Phavetsandone.
The temple is a popular visitor attraction and also a holy place where local people go to worship. It’s a busy place with plenty going on, and in the evening a bell is rung to herald the start of devotional chanting.
Visitors can sit in quiet contemplation and pray to the Buddha images if they wish.
The monks gather to chant the scriptures at 5:30am and just before 7am the wooden bell rings out to let people know that the almsgiving procession will soon begin.
This is the signal for people, mostly older women, to sit by the roadside, wearing traditional dress with a sash over their left shoulder. Each of them has a bowl containing sweets, snacks and a basket of rice in front of them, with they will hand to the monks as they pass.
If you wish to take part in this ritual, head to the main entrance to the temple on the Mekong Road where the saffron-robed monks and novices will pass.
The temple was originally built in 1880 when it was just a house standing on a pile of stones, but it burnt down in a fire 10 years ago.
Now the temple has five entrances and all of them have naga statues on both sides with main gateway having more than 170 steps leading to the front door.
Local people mostly visit the temple in the morning and before noon when they prepare meals for the monks, but tourists tend to go there in the afternoon to walk around and take photos of the buildings and Buddha images.
There are 500 hundreds of small sitting Buddha images on the right hand side of the temple, which is a popular spot for photos.
But 5pm is perhaps the best time to be there to look down over the town and watch the sun gradually sink over the horizon.
Men can go up to the drum tower to get a better view but women aren’t allowed access to this place.
Some of the novices and monks can speak English and are happy to chat with foreign visitors to improve their language skills, while for visitors it’s an opportunity to ask them about their lives as monks or about Buddhist customs.
The evening is when the temple is most colourful after the lights are turned on, but visitors must always remember not to make too much noise so as not to disturb the peace of this timeless and holy place.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update February 24, 2018)

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