Wat Pa Huak's amazing temple murals
Wat Pa Huak - The Monastery of the Bamboo ForestWat Pa Huak is a small and unassuming sim, or temple hall, sitting alone on the lower slopes of Mount Phousi, just opposite the Royal Palace and Haw Phra Bang in Luang Prabang, Laos. The temple, although historic, isn't much to look at from the outside. In fact, it looks nearly abandoned. The simple hall, supported by plain wooden pillars, looks much like any other forest shrine in Laos. However, what's inside is one of Luang Prabang's best kept secrets: a hidden gem of incredible 19th century temple murals depicting scenes from Lao myths and history.
|temple murals at Wat Pa Huak|
Wat Pa Huak, sometimes romanized as Wat Pa Ruak, means "The Monastery of the Thornless Bamboo Forest", for its location on the forested slopes of the sacred Mount Phousi, which stands in the center of Luang Prabang's old city. The temple dates back to the mid-19th century, although the exact dates are unclear.
|Wat Pa Huak, Luang Prabang, Laos|
The temple hall is small and relatively simple, with mossy stone steps going up to the plain wooden door leading inside. A small family of chickens has made their home around the temple, and without knowing any better, one might think that the hall had been long abandoned.
|the entrance to Wat Pa Huak|
Step inside, however, and be greeted by one of the city's historical treasures: a collection of beautiful and colorful murals covering all four walls of the temple.
|Buddha statue and shrine inside Wat Pa Huak|
Historic temple muralsThe walls of the temple are painted in murals depicting scenes from Lao history, myths, and religion. Looking at the detailed paintings, one can see scenes from the lives of the Buddha and the history of the Kingdom of Laos.
|scenes depicting the history of Laos|
Scenes even show the visits of foreign diplomatic missions to the royal court of Luang Prabang. Persian, Chinese, and even Europeans are depicted paying their respects to the king of Laos. The murals depict Luang Prabang as a "heavenly city", the center of trade and culture in the world. Art historians will note that the depictions of foreign visitors suggest the importance of Luang Prabang in diplomatic, as well as economic, matters.
|murals depicting foreign influence in Luang Prabang|
How to support the templeThere is no ticket nor entry fee to visit Wat Pa Huak. A sign outside of the temple clearly states that it is free for all visitors to enjoy the beautiful and historic murals. Still, delicate historical art such as these require quite a bit of work to restore and preserve. The temple was indeed abandoned for years following the fall of the Kingdom of Laos in the 1970s, and was used as a library by the Lao Ministry of Culture for several years.
Recently, donations from the Thai royal family have gone towards restoring some of the murals to their former glory.
If you want to help support the temple and the restoration and preservation efforts, all you have to do is make a small donation or purchase a souvenir. Various beautiful paintings and prints are available for sale, with prices ranging from 10.000 to 30.000 kip (on the honor system), and all proceeds go to support Wat Pa Huak's mural restoration efforts.
|the sale of souvenirs support the preservation of the temple's murals|
- The temple is supposed to be open daily from 8:00 - 17:00, although sometimes it appears to be closed. If the temple is locked, you might have to come back another day, or try to find the caretaker who should be somewhere nearby to unlock it for you. You can easily see from the street whether the temple is opened or not.
- There is no admission fee or ticket to visit Wat Pa Huak. Donations are accepted, and sales of souvenirs go towards preserving the historic temple murals. Souvenirs are 10.000-30.000 kip.