Royal Palace (Haw Kham)
Royal Palace © Adam Carr
The former Royal Palace is a mixture of French and Lao architecture, and is now a museum. It preserves the monarchy's possessions and has one of the glitziest interiors around. A three-headed elephant sheltered by the sacred white parasol sits above the entrance, and is the symbol of Lao's monarchy. All things considered, the Throne Hall is the most impressive room in the complex. The dazzling interior comprises mirrors, mosaics, and displays of royal regalia that include glittering swords and the former King's elephant saddle. The Pha Bang (delicate Buddha) is the museum's most prized item, and is housed in a small, barred shrine that was the King's personal sanctum. Believed to have been crafted in the heavens, it is the country's most sacred image and spiritual protector. The museum has information in Lao and English but is worth visiting with a local guide, who can share myths and legends as well as history. Shoes and bags must be left at the entrance. Photography is not allowed.