Sunday, May 1, 2011

Another time Another Royal Palace

The Ho Kham or Golden Palace in Luang Prabang is relatively new compared to many buildings here in this world heritage site. Built by the French it is a mixture of Lao traditional architecture and the French beaux arts style. Demolishing the old wooden  palace in 1903 the French colonial administration built  the new structure to symbolize the new liaison recently established when Laos became a protectorate of France. Set close to the Mekong river the lush grounds are still beautifully maintained although today the palace is the  National Museum.

The gabled entrance of the palace  is decorated with the romantic symbol of the former kingdom of Lane Xang, a three headed elephant under a parasol.  It is surrounded by fifteen golden nagas. Long cooling verandas surround the interior living areas. The king's reception area is the most intriguing room (which sadly I have no pictures of as cameras are not allowed in the palace). Murals painted in a primitive fauve style by the French painter Alex de Fontereau are designed to catch the light as the sun moves through the day. The murals depict a day in the life of Luang Prabang in the 1930s. There is of course a wildly decorated throne room in red, gold and blue Japanese mosaics, the room having been heavily embellished for the coronation of Savang Vatthana which never took place. The royal living areas are simple polished teak floors and minimal French furnishings of no particular note.

Below is the exterior of Wat Ho Prabang on the palace grounds. It was the inside of this smaller Wat that is so lavishly decorated in red and gold. The exterior has green as the stronger colour of glass mosaic used, 'blending' it into the landscape.


Jane and Lance Hattatt said...

Hello Heather:
What very, very splendid buildings and we love all the gilded decoration on the one which now houses the National Museum. The verandah is lovely, and one can well imagine the gatherings there in former times [i.e. French colonial rule!!].

columnist said...

I think this must be a relatively new restoration, as I don't recall it being open when we went there - 3 or 5 years ago. It looks as though a lot has been going on, so it might be worth another visit, to this postage stamp, but very beautiful gem of a "city".