Exploring the Mekong and Beyond.

Discovering the Mekong

Luang Prabang, Laos

Wat Chomphet

Wat Chomphet is located across the river from Luang Prabang. Built in 1888 and perched above Ban Xiengmen. The view from Wat Chomphet offers stunning panoramic views of the peninsula and surrounding hills. From the river, it is a prominent local landmark visible from several kilometers away. The temple itself is quite modest and hasn’t always received a lot of up keep. With often only one monk and a few novice (maybe) staying at the temple. However, recent months have seen some improvements to help restore the property. The interior ceiling is decorated with gold-leaf stenciling depicting mice, bees, peacocks, birds, rabbits and other animals. Standing at the top of the stairs are two stupas said to house the ashes of a kings’ wives. There are about 120 stairs up to Wat Chomphet. They start at the north end of the cobble stone road leading through Ban Xiengmen. This where the road turns to dirt. If you keep going straight about 300m on the dirt path and across a small bridge you come to Wat Longkhoun. Past Wat Longkhoun a short distance further you reach Wat Sack Kalin and Tham (cave) Sack Kalin. Heading into the village down the cobble stone leads to Wat Xiengmen. Entrance fees is 10,000 kip

Wat Longkhoun

Wat Longkhoun is located in Chomphet and sits almost directly across the river from Wat Xeing Thong in Luang Prabang. Wat Longkhoun is unique in that it holds a strong connection to the royal family of Laos and dates back to the 18th century. Historically, it was traditional practice for all kings of Laos to retreat to Wat Longkhoun for three days of ceremonial cleansing and meditation before returning across the river to Wat Xieng Thong to be anointed as King. Since it’s beginings, Wat Longkhoun served as a sanctuary for those seeking meditation and rejuvenation. Consequently, the windowless meditation room once used by kings, their male relatives and monks, still stands near the Wat. In addition, an extension was built during the reign of King Sisavonvang in 1937. Featuring two historic and large bearded Chinese statues to guard the entrance. Along with elaborate gilded columns topped with lotus petal designs and intricate wood carvings. The interior features decorative deities and a red ceiling intricately stenciled with dharma wheels, peacocks, and mythical creatures. Jataka murals depict the story of the 547 lives of Lord Buddha and local myths sharing Buddhist morals of kindness and the importance of giving. After all, Wat Longkhoun is also known as the Happy Monastery. Unfortunately, today many of the murals are in poor condition due to moisture and years of neglect. As was the fate of many of the Wats in Chomphet after the dissolution of the monarchy. Also, numerous gouges can be seen from vandalism during the revolutionary years during the mid 1970’s. Last major restoration efforts to the Wat and wooden houses on the property was in the mid 1990’s using traditional materials and techniques. Wat Longkhoun is situated between Wat Sack Kalin to the north and Wat Chomphet to the south. No more than 300m to either of the fore mentioned Wats. Entrance fee 10,000 kip

Wat Kokpab

Wat Kokpab is north of Luang Prabang. It is the last temple on a sting of wats starting downriver in Ban Xiengmen. Tucked above and behind to the south sits Wat Nong Sakeo. It ties into Wat Had Siew. Which is the next visible temple from the river, south of Wat Kokpab. Wat Kokpab is stunning. It boasts ornately landscaped gardens and a peaceful setting. Orchid gardens, Buddha’s statues and decorative rock pathways lead you through the grounds. A beautiful large Buddha with a gentle smile peers down over anyone passing by the temple. Ruins of an old walking meditation room can be seen not far from the temple. And up to the right is a large stupa offering a Mekong river view. The Satu (senior monk) at this temple is well respected in the community and is known for being more disciplined. This is reflected in the continuous upkeep and landscaping that continues to aesthetically enhance the grounds of Wat Kokpab. Always a lovely stop for a stroll.

Ban Xang Khong ~ Saa Paper Village

Ban Xang Khong and Ban Xieng Lek are located approximately 3km north of Luang Prabang, up river. These villages specialize in producing and selling Saa paper, textiles, handwoven silks and cottons. You will also find a few one-off shops selling traditional Hmong textiles and decorative wood carvings. Saa paper is made from the naturally shedding bark of the Mulberry tree. A win for the environment and sustainability. Firstly, the bark is boiled into a pulp then spread over a fine screen and hand mixed before being lifted and drained. Often decorative dried flowers and leaves are placed on the sheets before being set out to dry. Mr. Nalangkone’s and Simone’s Saa paper shops both offer a wonderful collection of Saa paper products. You will find notebooks and cards, fans, gift bags, lanterns and many more decorative paper products to browse through. Great shops for gifts and prices are reasonable. It’s worth noting that Mr. Nalangkone’s himself is a very respected artisan in Luang Prabang and has won awards for his work. He is known for his creativity, innovation and intricate craftsmanship. He is also making paper products made of other natural materials, such as banana tree bark and elephant dung. This is also a great stop if interested in watching local weavers at their looms and perhaps shopping for handmade textiles, specifically naturally dyed silks and cottons. You will find a variety of different textile shops as you stroll through the village. One of the larger shops even offers a display of the dying and silk making process for visitors to see. In our opinion, it can be a nicer shopping experience for these types of products as opposed to the night market.

Ban Channeua ~ Pottery Village

Ban Channeua is approximately 5km south of Luang Prabang, down river of Luang Prabang. This riverside village has been manufacturing pottery for over 400 years. In ancient times, pottery pots were used for purposes such as fermenting fish along with storing water and rice alcohol. Today a large variety of beautifully handcrafted terra cotta pots, planters, lanterns, tiles and more are made using the same techniques passed down through centuries. Unfortunately, this craftsmanship and way of life is slowly fading and only a handful of families in Ban Chan still practice these ancient pottery-making techniques. The raw material is taken from the surrounding area, mixed, processed and shaped by the local craftsmen before being brought to the villages’ community kiln for firing. This can be a 3 to 4-day process with someone to mind the kiln 24/7. A new Pottery House was recently opened by a young local family. Their hope is to help preserve the history and traditional way of life in their village. Additionally, they offer pottery experiences for anyone who wants to get hands-on with the clay. Together with their skilled pottery makers to guide you, create your own pottery masterpiece. Village fee is 10,000 kip per person.