Xayaboury capital’s intriguing cultural icons await visitors

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 visit to Xayaboury mightn’t immediately be on everyone’s list of Lao highlights but there are many interesting historical and cultural sites well worth exploring in the provincial capital.
Among the cultural wonders of Xayaboury town are the temples of Sibounheuang, Sisavangvong and Phou Thork.
This writer recently had the privilege to experience these temples as part of a promotional visit organised by the Tourism Marketing Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.

The large sleeping Buddha image at Sibounheuang temple.

Upon entering the temples, I found each has their own interesting long history to learn. All of them are at the centre of faith of local people as well as being popular destinations for visitors to sightsee and also learn about the culture, architecture and history. Devotees also enjoy making merit when they come to these temples which attract a large number of visitors each day.
Sibounheuang temple is believed to be the oldest in the town and perhaps the province and many aspects of its past are there to remind visitors, such as the ruins of the ordination hall.
The temple, by the Houng River in Yai village not far from the centre of town, features unique architecture and a beautifully decorated interior.
Established in 1456, the original ordination hall made of wood was severely damaged by fire several times causing the shrine to be ruined and the tragic loss of historic palm leaf manuscripts.
The last fire occurred in 1889 and since then the temple has been restored several times. In 2010, a 6-metre long sleeping Buddha image was built.
This temple has a sacred Buddha image named Patchanchay which is believed to be more than 600 years old. People entering the temple like to pray to the Buddha for protection, particularly when planning a long trip.
Sisavangvong temple, located in Simeuang village, in the centre of Xayaboury district, is the largest and an important cultural site for Xayboury district and province.
The old temple serves as an administration and education centre for monks and novices in the province.
It was established in 1920 and named after the king who ordered its foundation. King Sisavangvong ordered the construction of many temples during his reign and two bear his name in Xayaboury province, with the other in Sisavang village, Paklai district.
The temple was originally situated by the Houng River but the area was subject to flooding and landslides so it was rebuilt in its current location in 1942.
The temple was built in the same original style with construction once again under the supervision of King Sisavangvong.
In 1943, the sizable ordination hall, known locally as a sim, was built to house Buddha images and mixes traditional and modern architecture.
Meanwhile, Phou Thork temple is a new cultural tourist attraction located on top of Thork Hill at about 330 metres above sea level in Thana village, just north of the town centre.
The temple was opened to the public in 2013 and has become a very popular spot for sightseeing and selfies with the hill-top affording stunning views over Xayaboury town and surrounds.
Access is easy by car but why not get fit by taking the more than 100 steps to the top.
There you’ll be greeted by the 19.99-metre high Buddha statue standing in a blessing position. The site is a popular spot for people to pray as well as those who want exercise by climbing up and down the steps.


By Visith Teppalath
(Latest Update May 17, 2018)

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