Wat Pa Phon Phao: A hidden gem in Luang Prabang

9 Oct , 2023  

Wat Pa Phon Phao is a unique and beautiful temple located about 1.5km from the center of Luang Prabang, Laos. I see it every morning as I drive to town and it’s visible form many places around Luang Prabang. It is perched atop a small hill, offering stunning views of the surrounding town. The temple is known for its unusual octagonal architecture and its intricate murals.

Wat Pa Phon Phao was built in the 1950s by a wealthy Laotian woman named Mrs. Bounmy Phonsak. She wanted to create a temple that would be a place of peace and contemplation for both monks and laypeople. The temple’s octagonal shape is said to represent the eightfold path to enlightenment.

I have visited Wat Pa Phon Phao many times and despite the opening hours being listed as 8am to 5pm daily it’s never been open. Imagine my joy when on my last visit it was!

The interior of Wat Pa Phon Phao is decorated with a series of murals that depict the life of the Buddha and the teachings of Buddhism. The murals are very colorful and detailed, and they provide a fascinating glimpse into Buddhist mythology and cosmology.

One of the most striking murals in Wat Pa Phon Phao is a depiction of Buddhist hell. The mural shows the various punishments that await those who commit bad karma. The punishments are graphic and a reminder of the importance of living a moral life.

Another interesting mural in Wat Pa Phon Phao shows the different Buddhist architectures of Southeast Asia. The mural depicts temples from Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. It is a beautiful reminder of the rich diversity of Buddhist culture in the region.

The murals inside Wat Pa Phon Phao are divided into two main sections: the first section depicts the life of the Buddha, and the second section depicts the teachings of Buddhism.

The murals depicting the life of the Buddha show his birth, enlightenment, and death. They also show some of the most important events in his life, such as his first sermon and his debate with the heretic Mara.

The murals depicting the teachings of Buddhism show a variety of Buddhist concepts, such as the four noble truths, the eightfold path, and the six realms of existence. The murals are also decorated with images of various Buddhist deities and symbols providing a comprehensive overview of Buddhist mythology and cosmology.

Wat Pa Phon Phao is a relatively new temple. You look across to Phousi Mountain which is a popular place to watch the sunset. I prefer to go for sunrise as there are less people. The views from the top of the mountain are breathtaking. You can see the entire city of Luang Prabang, as well as the surrounding mountains and countryside.

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