The former Royal Palace now the National Museum

It is most definitely worth a visit.

Perfectly framed by an avenue of tall palm trees, the former Royal Palace was built in 1904, in a cruciform shape blending traditional Lao and French beaux-arts styles. It was the main residence of King Sisavangvong (1905-59 reign) whose statue stands in the front part of the palace.

On the right of the main palace building is the chapel where Phra Bang Buddha statue is placed. In fact, to the right of the entrance to the palace stands a magnificent shrine built to house Phra Bang – the Palladium of the nation.

plcBack to the palace building, Italian marble steps lead into an entry hall where the centrepiece is the gilded seat of the former supreme patriarch of Lao Buddhism. To the right, the king’s reception room has walls covered in light suffused Gauginesque canvases of Lao life, painted in 1930 by French artist Alix de Fautereau. A line of centuries-old Khmu metal drums are placed on the corridor leading back to the main throne room whose golden trimmed walls are painted deep red and encrusted with mosaic-work in coloured mirror glass. Side galleries here display a collection of ancient Buddha figurines, some even dating back to the 16th-century, that were recovered from destroyed or looted stupas around the town, including That Markmo at Vat Visounnarath.

Behind the throne room are the former royal family’s residential quarters, including a study, the Queen’s bedroom and the King’s bedroom. After the King’s bedroom is a room displaying musical instruments and a series of masks for Ramayana dance-dramas. These were once a classic entertainment for the Lao court and have now been partly revived at the “Phra Rak Phra Ram” theatre.

The residential quarter also includes a dining room.

Back into the entry hall to its left is the Queen’s reception where many gifts from foreign envoys (including a rock brought back from the moon!) are on display.

Around the back of the museum is a small exhibit of royal cars which are rare and admired by car connoisseurs.

Royal opera or traditional dances are sometimes performed in the adjacent The Royal Ballet Theatre.

The museum is open daily, except Tuesdays.