Temples, Buddhist, Catholic, Hindu, whatever, are usually beautiful examples of human craftmanship. They are also a window into humans' ability to deceive themselves. Case in point, "That Dam Stupa" (not a joke) located in a quiet roundabout in Vientiane. Legend has it that this Stupa is/was inhabited by a seven-headed naga, mythical water-snake, whose job was to protect the Lao people and all the gold that covered the stupa.
I know what you're thinking: where's the gold? Thai invaders took it in 1820.
Anyway. I woke my first morning in Laos, had a decent breakfast in the charming garden of the Hotel Lao, and ventured forth. I almost immediately stumbled across a temple, Vat Inpeng. It is quite nice.
Near the bank of the river, I found Vat Chanthaboury, largely elephant-themed.
I'm not sure who the guys are on the small stupa detail, but they seem quite modern.
But the temple I wanted most to see was Hor Phakeo. It was built in the mid-1500s by a certain King Setthathirath when he moved the capital from Luang Prabang to Vientiane to house the storied Emerald Buddha. The Lao, the Thai and the Khmer (Cambodians) have had war after war, invasion after invasion, over this two foot tall carving, that's not even made of emerald (refer to sentence #2 of this post).
Still, it spent about two hundred years in Hor Phakeo (or Haw Phra Kaew or similar) before the Thais won it back. Today it resides in a similarly-named temple on the grounds of the Royal Palace in Bangkok. Although the Cambodias claim to have it too.
Luang Prabang has its own non-gold coated stupa, across the main drag from the Royal Palace.
But the town has some other temples, including the famously "active" Wat Mai, from whence the monks decend before daybreak to the riverbanks for alms-giving every morning. I never managed to wake up in time to see this spectacle, I did get some interesting shots of the temple itself.
Actually, I may have mixed some of those up with the other Buddhist temple just down the road, but I'm sure the ones below are from Wat Mai.
There is also Wat That Luang, apparently the best of the lot, but it was quite a long ways up a hill and I was pretty much templed-out by the time I heard about it. Next time, Luang Prabang, next time.