A former temple, Haw Phra Kaew (Ho Phra Keo) is Laos’ leading museum of religious art. It takes its name from the Phra Keo (Emerald Buddha), a statue carved from a single piece of jade that is now preserved in Bangkok. The grounds of the former temple, originally built in 1565, are also beautiful.
There is a small fee to enter Haw Phra Kaew which is centrally located and easy to reach on foot or by bicycle from other landmarks. The beautiful Buddhist art here speaks for itself to a degree, but serious culture buffs will get more out of visiting with a private guide as the signage isn’t great. A few Vientiane city tours stop at Haw Phra Kaew and it’s also a common stop on Vientiane temple tours.
Things to Know Before You Go
- Culture vultures won’t want to miss the serene sculptures on display here.
- The museum remains a religious site, so wear clothing that covers shoulders and thighs.
- Don’t miss the large stone jar in the garden, which comes from Laos’ mysterious Plain of Jars.
- There are a few steps up to the museum, with no ramp.
How to Get There
Under half a mile (550 meters) from the Nam Phou Fountain and less than a mile (1.4 kilometers) from the Patuxai Monument, Haw Phra Kaew is centrally located. It’s easy to get here on foot or by cycle or tuk-tuk, although travelers who are pressed for time may want to join a tour that bundles a visit here with other Vientiane sites.
When to Get There
Haw Phra Kaew is open seven days a week, morning to afternoon. The dry-season peak (November to January) provides the best chance to appreciate the grounds, but there really is no bad time to visit. It is busiest on weekends, when local Lao have time to appreciate their heritage.
The Emerald Buddha: Phra Kaew
In Bangkok, Thailand, the Wat Phra Kaew is home to the Emerald Buddha, a very sacred statue whose loss is still a source of anguish for many Laos. The forces of Siam, the nation that is today Thailand, looted it from Haw Phra Kaew in 1778. Just 26 inches (66 centimeters) tall, it is carved from a single piece of jade and dressed in gold.