Fodor's Expert Review Pha That Luang
The city's most sacred monument, this massive, 147-foot-high, gold-painted stupa is also the nation's most important cultural symbol, representing the unity of the Lao people. King Setthathirat had it built in 1566 to guard a relic of the Buddha's hair and to represent Mt. Meru, the holy mountain of Hindu mythology, the center and axis of the world. Surrounding the lotus-shape stupa are 30 pinnacles on the third level and a cloistered square on the ground with stone statues of the Buddha. Two brilliantly decorated temple halls, the survivors of four temples originally here, flank That Luang. On the avenue outside the west gate stands a bronze statue of King Setthathirat erected in the 1960s by a pious general. That Luang is the center of a major weeklong festival during November's full moon. The stupa is on the north end of town, a 10-minute songthaew ride from the city center.