The Royal Palace in Luang Prabang also known as “Haw Kham” and translated to “Golden Palace” was once Laos’ Royal Palace. The former Royal Palace is located on the banks of the Mekong River and faces the Mount Phousi. The palace houses a lot of historical items with interesting stories behind. The Royal palace is worth a visit, and you will learn more about Lao history and culture.
HISTORY OF ROYAL PALACE
The Royal Palace (official name Haw Kham) in Luang Prabang was built in 1904. The royal palace was constructed for King Sisavang Vong and his family during the French colonial era. Through long history, the palace was affected more or less with historical events, especially the Lao Revolution in 1975.
The Royal Palace during French colonial era
It was built to replace the old Palace after the Luang Prabang city had been destroyed and pillaged by the Black Flag Army, a mercenary army from China, in 1887. It took 5 years (1904 – 1909) to complete the Royal Palace featuring a blend of Lao traditional style and French Beaux Arts. King Sisavang Vong was known as collaborator of the French and supported their colonial dominion over his country. They offered him and his family a life of opulence. He made the effort to stop attempts by nationalists who claimed independence during his reign. Sisavang Vatthana, the son succeeded King Sisavang Vong. After his death in 1959, the crown Prince Savang Vatthana and his family occupied the palace. For the coronation ceremony, the crown prince enlarged the throne room by adding two equal-sized rooms. He commissioned a mosaic decoration on the interior walls and modernized the whole compound.
The Royal Palace after The Lao Revolution
However, independence finally arrived in Laos in 1975. The establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic on 2 December 1975 prevented the coronation from taking place. The cummunists overthrew the monarchy. Then, the Royal family was unceremoniously deposed and taken to re-education camps. The king abdicated and was appointed to the meaningless position of “Supreme Advisor to the President”. In 1976 he surrendered the Royal Palace to the Lao Government. He moved to a nearby private residence close to Xiengthong temple and offered that the palace could be converted into a national museum. The main aims are to preserve the palace and the royal collections, and to inform the public of the history of the former monarchy. The palace was then converted into a national museum and opened to the public in 1995. Today, the National Museum is among the best places to learn about the history of Luang Prabang.
WHAT TO SEE IN THE ROYAL PALACE
The Royal Palace is in the heart of Luang Phrabang town just below Mount Phousi on the main road. There are some great sites to see there. In the grounds of the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang are the National Museum, the theatre and the Temple Haw Pha Bang.
The National Museum of Luang Prabang
In the interior of the Palace Royal of Luang Prabang, the converted National Museum has remained intact since 1975. All the furniture and decoration of the National Museum are originating in the Royal Palace. You will approach the National Museum through a walkway lined with palm trees and up a staircase to the main level.
The front rooms which was functioned as royal reception areas now are the main galleries and are filled with royal portraits and gifts from foreign states. The main throne room has walls in bright red and decorated with glass mosaics which form huge murals. In the past, Kings of Laos used the throne to travel the Kingdom. Around the throne room, there are displays of ceremonial swords, Buddha statues and other artifacts of the Royal family. Behind the throne room, there is the royals’ residential area with the Queen’s bedroom, the King’s bedroom, a dining room and a music room. People kept the residential area in the same state as in 1975 before the royal family departed.
The Temple Haw Pha Bang
In a corner of the Palace grounds, there is the Temple Haw Phra Bang built to treasure the Phra Bang Buddha image. Although the temple may seem old, it is a new structure in 2006 with the traditional style.
On top of the white structure, the multi-layered and steep roof is decorated with lots of gold. Dragon sculptures are along the staircase. The temple houses the golden standing Buddha statue Phra Bang from Sri Lanka where it was cast in the 1st century. It was also the name-giver to the town Luang Prabang in 1512 and a symbol of the royal dynasty. Phra Bang Buddha is a statue of 83 centimeters in height and regarded as the most sacred and culturally significant Buddha image in Laos.
The Theatre of the Royal Palace of Luang Prabang
During the time in Royal Palace, you must visit the Theatre of the Royal Palace (Phralak Phralam Theatre) presents occasional performances of the epic Ramayana story and Lao traditional dance. The Ramayana was popular throughout South and Southeast Asia and first brought to Luang Prabang centuries ago. The long traditions of the music and the performance continued to exist through the 20th century in Laos. In 2003, With the support of the international community Lao PDR established the Phralak Phralam Theatre. The aims are to ensure the survival of the Lao Ramayana and give visitors and Laotians the opportunities to experience this significant part of Lao culture. During high season, shows were performed at 18:00 on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. The entrance fee for the shows is between 100,000 kip and 150,000 kip (from $11 to $18). In the gardens on the way to the theatre is the statue of King Sisavang Vong, King of Laos until 1959. Also on the grounds, other buildings house the Royal stables and a garage with the old cars used by the Royals from the 1950s to 1970s.
TIPS FOR VISITING ROYAL PALACE
If you’re wondering how to get to Luang Prabang Royal Palace, here we give you a few tips on transportation, entrance fee and dress code. Also, there’s a night market near the palace for visitors considering what to do at night in Luang Prabang.
How to get to the Royal Palace
The Palace Museum is located on the Luang Prabang between the Mekong River and Mount Phousi. The main entrance is on Sisavangvong Road. You can reach Most of the town on foot. Or you can rent a motorbike or bicycle for travel. A tuk tuk or jumbo ride from the center of town will cost between 10,000 – 15,000 Kip (about $1.2 – $2). Click here for currency concerter: Lao kip to USD. The best time for a visit is in the early morning, which is when the number of visitor is lowest and the lighting for photography is the best.
Entrance fee & opening hours
The Royal Palace is open for visitors every day from 8:00 – 11:30 am and 1:00 – 3:00 pm. Entry to the museum grounds is free. But it costs you 30,000 kip ($3.5) to get to the palace building. There is a ticket box to the right of the entrance. Children under 10 free of charge. Do note that the public toilets may be not up to standard so go before you visit around. Phralak Phralam Theatre is open on Monday, Wednesday, Friday & Satauday: 18:00 from October to February/ 18:30 from March to September. Counter ticket: from 08:00 to 18:00 There are 3 different price depends on the row of seat: 100,000kip, 120,000kip and 150,000kip. You can check out the official website of the Phralak Phralam Theatre for tickets.
Dress code and restrictions
Your bags and cameras must be stored in lockers while visiting the palace buildings. You can take pictures of the palace or temple from the outside. In addittion, respectable dress is required, meaning knees and shoulders must be covered.According to the ticket includes “midriff, upper arms and upper legs covered; no hats”. Take off shoes before entering the building. Also, women must dress with long skirt or trousers, in case of failure to comply with the dress code is necessary to resort to luggage, where it provided free Lao long skirts.
Luang Prabang Night Market