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Wat Si Saket
Wikipedia | Google | Google Images | FlickrThere’s no doubt that Wat Si Saket is the most stunning of all Vientiane’s multitude of temples. Yet due to the fact that it’s two blocks away from the city’s main tourist drag, it’s also one of the least visited. For anyone who makes the effort to go, however, this translates into a most peaceful ambiance and a very contemplative visit. Renowned for being home to a vast collection of over 6,000 bronze, ceramic, and silver miniature Buddha statues, Si Saket is also the site of one of the most authentic alms ceremonies you’re likely to witness in Laos. Unlike the one in Luang Prabang, which some argue has become more of a touristy spectacle, the ceremonial offering of food to monks by faithful locals, is a sombre and very moving event.
Brief HistoryWat Si Saket was built in the early 19th century and is one of only a handful of temples in the country to be designed not in Laotian, but Siamese architectural style. The differences of the two are negligible for the average tourist, yet architecture buffs will immediately see the disparity between Si Saket and other temples in Vientiane, primarily with the roof design. Whatever slight variations in style you may or may not notice, be assured that they played a principal role in ensuring this temple remained intact during the many raids of the city by the neighboring Siamese. Used as the principal command office for the invading forces, Wat Si Saket stand proudly today as the oldest temple in Vientiane.
What to Expect from a VisitYou’ll find Wat Si Saket across the road from the majestic Presidential Palace (unfortunately closed to the public), on the RHS corner of the road which leads to Patuxai Victory Gate. Framed on all sides by white and pink Frangipani trees, the temple is as picturesque on the outside as it is within its ancient yet still-standing walls.
As you pay the modest admission fee and enter the courtyard, you may be surprised by the square-shaped cloister surrounding the main hall, a feature which differentiates Thai and Laotian architecture. Around the walls of the cloister you’ll spot thousands of niches housing an incredible number of miniature statues. The hallways on the left-hand side are brimming with what looks like a collection of ‘spare parts’, which are recently discovered artifacts meant to be housed within the temple after the next lot of restorations.
The main hall in the center is supported by a dozen ornate columns, topped with intricately carved wooden brackets. Inside the hall, you’ll see faded murals on the walls and even more Buddha statue niches. The inside of the temple is in desperate need of restoration, and although the murals are supposed to represent the past lives of Buddha, they are near impossible to discern.
Wat Si Saket is classified as a museum although it is very much a lived-in temple and lacks any kind of informational boards. Although the grounds are quiet at any time of day, you will come across monks and faithful followers visiting to pray and make their offerings. A large, shining and very beautiful shrine on the right hand corner of the property is constantly surrounded by food offerings and flowers, as well as a large number of seemingly contended stray cats. To the left of the shrine you’ll see the modest two story living quarters of the resident monks. Notice the very ornate five-tiered roof of the temple, which is the predominant architectural characteristic of the Siamese and a detail you’ll find lacking in most Laotian temples. On the eastern cloister you’ll see a long, wooden carved trough shaped as a water snake. During Laotian New Year celebrations, it is used to cleanse all the temple’s Buddha statues.
Thanks to the colorful, flowered gardens and abundance of trees, Wat Si Saket is by far the most photogenic temple in Vientiane and a wonderful place to spend an hour in. Combine your visit with the morning markets (halfway between the temple and the arch)
Opening Times8 a.m.-12 p.m. and 1 p.m.-4 p.m.
Admission fee₭5,000 ($0.60)
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Author: Laura Pattara. Last updated: Feb 02, 2015