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That Luang stupa’s splendour a year-round tourist draw

Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles
and photographs inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality
of South-East Asia’s Simply Beautiful Laos.

The striking sight of its gleaming pinnacles and the reverence inspired by Vientiane’s majestic That Luang stupa continue to draw people from around Laos and all corners of the globe.
As the sun rose high in the sky last week and lit up the golden spires, tourists could be heard speaking Korean, Chinese, Thai, English and Vietnamese as they gathered on the esplanade to take photos of the stupa. The women were dressed in the long skirt traditionally worn by Lao ladies, as is required to enter the stupa complex.

A view of That Luang.

I was there with my family to pay respect to the stupa as, unlike most residents of Vientiane, I hadn’t been able to do so during the That Luang festival which had taken place the previous week. While I was there, some of the tourists asked me to take their picture in various scenic spots.
They told me they were delighted to have the opportunity to visit Vientiane and to see the famed That Luang stupa. They too had missed the festival this year but had heard about its colourful rituals and its widespread popularity.
Although disappointed at missing out, they were making most of their visit and had been sampling Lao cuisine. Their favourite items were the sausages and dried riverweed from Luang Prabang. Some of them told me that after exploring Vientiane they would go to Luang Prabang province before returning to England. They had been to Laos several times and wanted to make another visit because they enjoyed the food, the people and the culture so much.
As I was making the customary three perambulations of the towering stupa, I saw a large group of foreign tourists including monks coming in through the gate holding bunches of flowers, on their way to pay homage to the stupa and to admire the ancient artefacts on display.
The stupa has recently been renovated and 9.99 kilogrammes of gold placed on the top. A Buddhist ceremony to consecrate the stupa was held before the start of the That Luang festival.
Visit Laos Year 2018 was launched on the first day of the festival, adding a new dimension to its significance this year.
After the festival ended, the That Luang stupa and That Luang Neua and That Luang Tai temples continued to attract lots of visitors as they are among the oldest structures in Vientiane and have many interesting features. They contain large Buddha images, many steles, and paintings, in addition to their dramatic architecture. Visitors can also pay respect to an imposing statue of King Xaysetthathirath which stands nearby.
That Luang stupa continues to draw tourists in droves along with other landmarks in Vientiane, which is the most popular destination in the country after Luang Prabang.

 

By Phon Thikeo
(Latest Update November 15, 2017)


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