Once Upon a Time: Pra That Luang

This must be what Pra That Luang looked like over 30 years ago, the olden and not the current golden Pra That Luang that is a must see Wat (temple) if you ever visited Vientiane, Laos today.  This picture hangs in my dad’s living and I’m able to take a clear image of the picture with my camera.  I see a dirt road that’s described by those that used to live there, but the tall palm tree is no longer there. Some of you might remember that once upon a time Pra That Luang used to look like this.

AV, EF70-200mm f/4L USM lens, f/4, 1/30sec, ISO-3200, exposure bias 0step, focal length 84mm, pattern metering
closeup cropped of the above photo


    • lady0fdarkness, Wat Lao in Laos are most beautiful and no doubt mysterious in their own way. If you ever have a chance, I hope you will get to go back and visit. I think you will appreciate its beauty the most.

  1. Nye, as a kid growing up not too far from ThatLuang… this is how I remember it used to be.. It is so hard to find old pictures of Laos.

    • seeharhed, I think my GI Joe sister gave this to my dad, not sure where she got it from. It’s a poster size and she had it framed. I browsed through the Internet and saw the old black and white pictures, but not as nice as the one that my dad has.

  2. We would keep this poster hanging in our living room at all times. As kids, we would gaze and stare at it when we get bored or when the winter is so cold, or when the street is full of crime and of unkind people. We would talk about the history of Laos together as a family about how almost everybody knows your name in our little country. I felt that this photo connects us to Laos or who ever have this on there wall. Today that poster is now missing, stolen, washed-out by sunlight, chewed up by a mouse or was just misplaced. If I find that poster I will put it up right away, keeping it away from sunlight… or from thieves.:-)

    The current That Luang temple is painted and covered with gold up to the teeth, maybe to show some kind of wealth or attracting some form of wealth. It’s nice but displaying gold on a temple or around our neck is kinda cheesy. I understand that Gold is a great conductor and serves a purpose of channeling energy…but that is not gold, but gold paint. I like to see more of the detail craftsmanship of chiseled quality stone.

    • Ziddicus, beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, this makes me wonder if we’re reminiscence too much of the past. I was just talking to one of my friends the other day about how the foreigners can go into our homeland and capture great images that are so rich in culture and tradition and us on the other hand can only manage to get snap shots. I think this is a mere reflection of how we feel, and some of us see emptiness when we go back whether visiting the temple and that’s because most can’t get passed of what the country has become. I don’t see the emptiness, and fortunate enough to see the beauty but lack the skill to capture great images, perhaps on my next visit that will change. I think we can learn to see the beauty, the culture and tradition pass through that shine. 🙂

      As for the restoration of Pra That Luang, I can’t say that bringing Pra That to its lustrous Shine is the way to go but that’s the eastern way of thinking, the newer, the shinier, the better. Unlike the western way of thinking of preserving it to the original colors and forms. It sounds to me like you’ve adopted the western way and view of things. 🙂

      • I think it would be cruel to keep it looking like a Parthenon ruin since people are enjoying their lives around that temple. If it’s beautiful to them then I’m happy. 🙂

        I have also wonder why foreigners take better pictures. I believe that foreign photographers see inspiration in foreign places while those that live there don’t. Almost everything in Laos look normal to us… because we have to. We have to live there so we have to adjust and accept everything there as normal. It’s rare to see a Laotian obsessed with the images of Laos. The day when we become fascinated and obsessed by something, then that day we can capture great (often positive) pictures of them. Another words, if we don’t have the inspiration, the motivation, the passion and the imagination, we quickly get tired and produce nothing great or produce very dull stuff.

        That is why I support people’s freedom to choose, freedom to travel and have access to resources to do what they want while they have the inspiration, as long as they don’t harm anything or anyone. The US constitution have paved the way so people can find the resources and inspiration to do great things.

        So then, how do we get inspired? For me they are an inspirational music, a simple reliable tool (for example, a simple to operate camera) that stays with you for more than 5 to 10 years, that has nicks and lots of scratches that has now merge its soul into yours… becoming pure love and joy..and all the art you produce is of love and joy (even though some art may be depressing)…if you understand what I mean.

        • Hi Zeddicus, I think great images come from within, you capture what you see and feel. Foreigner photographers capture life as is, they see life as a beautiful thing, while we judge and have expectation of how we think things should be. I think the difference is how we view things, certain image I think is beautiful but some might feel embarrassed by it.

          Let see, a Lao photographer would have an umbrella in one hand (most Lao females are afraid of getting dark) and a camera in the other. They have to hurry because they can’t stand the heat and dust, it’s hard to capture great images this way. 🙂

          I think photograph tells a story and I’m inspired to tell that story, but I still have a lot to learn. That’s another thing too, you’ve to want to improve yourself. Pra That Luang is not so bad seeing it in person, I like the entrance and wish that I had more time to spend there.

          • When observing something from apart it is so much better. You can see or imagine the potential of it. Once you cracked open the shell to see what is inside you find out it is just another nuts. When you get into it, your perspective changes……in some case. 😉

  3. We had the same poster growing up too. It brings back happy memories for me.

    I like the old version in it’s original state too. The one painted over in gold just isn’t the same and doesn’t trigger such emotion for me.

    Imagine sometime in the past, when westerner travelers from a far off land came across such a structure. It would be like going to a different planet! 🙂

    • Cambree, I know what you mean, if the statue of liberty is golden or the Egyptian pyramids get the Midas touch, that would be shocking to see. 🙂

      I still like the old world charm but for those that were born after the painting, they wouldn’t know any difference.

    • Hi Dawn, it’s nice to meet you also. I’m glad that I participate in Scott’s photo assignment and have a chance to meet so many photobloggers like myself. 🙂

    • mozemoua, yes you are allowed to enter the Wat. When we were there I don’t think we had to pay to get in, but normally I think there is an entrance fee. I didn’t get to visit the nearby Wat.

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