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Restoration Beautifies National Icon: Hor Pha Keo Museum

Source: Vientiane Times

Local tour operators always list the Hor Pha Keo museum in central Vientiane as a must-see for visitors thanks to its impressive architecture and collection of prized artefacts.

A visit to Hor Pha Keo often inspires visitors to delve into Laos’ rich past with the site being the former resting place of the revered Emerald Buddha.

Hor Pha Keo is a drawcard for tourists from around the world.

Director of the Vientiane Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Mr Khampadith Khemmanith, said the Hor Pha Keo temple or museum is one of the most respected places in Laos and is also open for visitors to explore its antiquities.

Mr Khampadith said that each year, as there were a large number of tourists visiting the museum, the building’s age required that it be restored.

Hor Pha Keo is one of the oldest buildings in Vientiane and was used as a royal chapel during the time of the Lane Xang Kingdom and also housed the precious Emerald Buddha (Pha Keo). It was built in 1565 during the reign of King Setthathirath.

The building was badly damaged several times by enemies but it was twice restored. The first renovation occurred in 1816 when Chao Anouvong ruled Vientiane, while the second renovation was undertaken between 1936 and1942.

After national liberation in 1975, the government placed Hor Pha Keo under the management of the Ministry of Education and it became a museum in 1987.

From 1983-1987, Hor Pha Keo was under the responsibility of the Ministry of Information and Culture.

Mr Khampadith, who has headed the Hor Pha Keo Museum renovation project committee since 2015, said the restoration would make the place more attractive to foreign and local visitors alike.

The committee reported that the renovation was costing over 12 billion kip with money coming from government, local business and museum entry fees. Work started early last year and was now about 80 percent complete on the first phase with the remaining 20 percent of the restoration making up the second and third phases to be completed by May.

“This is the third restoration of Hor Pha Keo; the first took place in 1816, and the second from 1936-1942, with 2015 being the latest,” he said.

Mr Khampadith told a recent press conference that this weekend they would officially announce the conclusion of the first phase of the project and arrange an almsgiving ceremony so that local people and tourists could pay their respects to the museum.

During the press conference the Vice Mayor of Vientiane Mr Saithong Keoduangdy invited people to come to the museum on Sunday and Monday morning to celebrate the completion of the first phase.

“So many people want to know about the process because some of the restoration funds came from them. All of the money went into the project so people should come to see the results of our work,” Mr Saithong said.

The authorities asked tour agencies to put Hor Pha Keo on their itinerary for February 21-22 so tourists could experience Lao culture and traditions firsthand.