Luang Prabang, Laos
[Built by King Setthathirath]
An important Lao monastery, Wat Xieng Thong (meaning “Golden City” or “Golden Tree” monastery) is located close to the meeting point of the Mekong and Nam Khan Rivers, an ancient entry point to the town. The royal temple was under the patronage of the royal family until 1975, and was used to crown Lao kings. The complex’s buildings – including shrines, pavilions and residences – exemplify typical Lao art styles, with glass tile mosaics, sloping roofs and gilded, carved doors. The art around the complex depicts Buddhist symbols as well as Lao legends, and a stunning glass mosaic depicts the tree of life.
In the early morning, the complex is largely empty, save for several monks in bright orange robes. The mosaics catch the strengthening sunlight, glittering on the walls and catching our eye from across the open space. Each of the twenty-some buildings in the complex presents intricate details to admire and notice, bringing the entire visit a meditative quality perfect for the location.