Discover The Great Stupa - Vientiane
A national symbol, That Luang or the Great Stupa in Vientiane inspires awe with its high fortress, rich but sometimes turbulent history, and gilded exterior. Trip Guru suggests visiting this celebrated structure to admire its Lao-style architecture and Buddhist relics.
Plundered and rebuilt many times, That Luang boasts architecture that references Lao culture and identity. The stupa — a mound-like structure made to contain and display religious relics — has 3 levels that convey a reflection of the Buddhist doctrine. The building is about 44 meters high and the exterior of the highest level is completely covered in gold. Aside from the impressive stupa, tourists are drawn to the site by numerous Buddhas that come in all shapes and sizes, and statues of former rulers. While roaming around the complex to look at the images and sculptures, it is easy to be struck by the realization that most of the relics housed in the site have witnessed the unfolding of Vientiane’s colorful history, and the monuments reflect the different cultures and movements that have made an impact on the city.
If you’re into joyous street celebrations, the best month to visit That Luang is every November during the Boun That Luang Festival. Considered as one of the most important Buddhist celebrations in Laos, the 3-day-3-night festivity features religious ceremonies, parades, and live music. If you wish to avoid the crowd and the traffic, feel free to visit the stupa any other time of the year.
As one of the country’s most important structures, That Luang is very easy reach. The site is just about 4 km from the city center, making it an ideal destination for cyclists. You can easily rent a bike for around 8,000 Kip per day. Rest assured that cycling in the city is quite safe because the traffic here is pretty slow. You can also get to That Luang by taking a tuk-tuk from any spot in Vientiane. Tuk-tuk drivers use standardized fare cards for popular tourist destinations, but you can always negotiate their price. There are also big tuk-tuks near Pimphone Minimarket or the restaurants at the bank of Mekong River for tourists who are willing to share their ride and fare with a stranger.
What our experts tell about this experience.
I’ve only seen the great stupa in photographs, so you can imagine the joy I felt when I saw it personally for the first time. Everything about it was just beautiful, and the ancient images were great. Also, with all the Buddha statues surrounding me, I felt safe wherever I went.