Royal Palace (Haw Kham)
Royal Palace © Adam Carr
The former Royal Palace, a mixture of French and Lao architecture, is now a museum preserving the possessions of the monarchy and has one of the most golden and glitzy interiors you're ever likely to see. Above the entrance is a three-headed elephant sheltered by the sacred white parasol, the symbol of the Lao monarchy. The most impressive room is the Throne Hall, a dazzling interior of mosaics and mirrors, with displays of royal regalia including glittering swords and the former King's own elephant saddle. The museum's most prized possession, the Pha Bang, a golden image of the Buddha, is housed in a small barred room that was the King's personal shrine. It is the most sacred image in the country, believed to have been crafted in the heavens, and containing miraculous powers of protection over the country. The museum has information in Lao and English but it is worth visiting with a local guide to really bring the place to life and hear all about the myths and legends as well as the history. Shoes and bags must be left at the entrance (there are lockers) and, despite the many images which have made their way onto tourist review sites, photography is not allowed.