As the great majority of Laos people are Buddhist, the temple plays an important role in every day life of Laotian people. People come to the temple to pay their respect and pray to the Buddha and to seek advice from monks. During Buddhist holidays thousands of people flock to the temple grounds to pay homage to the Buddha.
Most boys will at one time become a monk, some for a very short period, others for many years. Often there will be a school on the temple grounds, especially in rural communities.
16th Century temples
Most of the country’s magnificent temples were built during the 16th century. The country’s most important and best known monasteries are found in the towns of Vientiane and Luang Prabang. Most temples in both cities have been destroyed in armed conflict at least once. Many have been rebuilt, often following the original design.
Laos’ most important Buddhist monument is the Pha That Luang in Vientiane, a golden stupa that enshrines a relic from the Buddha.
The town of Luang Prabang, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, houses many ornate Buddhist temples that have their own style, characterized by large sweeping roofs extending down almost to the ground. The best example is the Wat Xieng Thong, one of the few temples that escaped the destruction that came with the Black Flag Army invasion of 1887.
Most Buddhist temples are open to visitors. As they are sacred places to Buddhists, dress respectfully and remove your shoes before entering a building.
Khmer temples in Laos
In the days of the Khmer empire with its center at Angkor in current day Cambodia, the Khmer built a number of temples in the South of Laos, which was under their control at the time. The temples like the Wat Phou and Uo Moung built as Hindu temples dedicated to Shiva or Vishnu were later converted into Buddhist monuments.