Just beside the Royal Palace Museum, the Wat Mai is the largest temple in Luang Prabang. Built in the late 18th century, it is one of the major religious sites in the city, having been the main residence of Pra Sangkharat (the patriarch of Lao Buddhism) before the position was shifted to Pha That Luang in Vientiane.

The most astounding feature of Wat Mai is the five-tiered roof of the sim (ordination hall) which showcases a classical Luang Prabang style and shelters a beautiful veranda with gold-filigree columns and spectacular gilded wall reliefs depicting scenes from the Ramayana and Buddha’s life. The temple was deemed to be so beautiful that it was spared from destruction during the Siamese invasion in 19th century.

Inside the sim, there is a sitting Buddha statue on the altar surrounded by smaller Buddhist images. The Wat Mai once housed the Luang Prabang's most revered Buddha image, the Phra Bang, which was late removed to the Royal Palace Museum. Every year during the Lao New Year, the Phra Bang is carried from the museum to Wat Mai and displayed for three days.

Want to see the Wat Mai in person? Check out this sample itinerary we selected, which covers all the Luang Prabang highlights, including the Wat Mai, Wat Aham, Wat Visoun, Royal Palace Museum, Wat Xieng Thong, etc.

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