Inspect a pair of Tai Yuan Buddhist temples in “Old Luang Namtha”. Head to hilltop That Phoum Pouk Stupa built in 1628 to demarcate the Lane Xang and Lanna Kingdoms. Visit hilltop That Xieng Teung stupa, which is said to contain Buddha’s Adam’s apple.
Luang Namtha Town
Temple Tour: Take a tour of Luang Namtha Town, and see a handful of prominent Buddhist temples and stupas. Start south of town near the airport in “Old Luang Namtha”, where the Tai Yuan built two Buddhist temples – Vat Ban Vieng Tai and Vat Ban Luang Khone. Then, drive up the hill from the airport for about 15 minutes to reach That Phoum Pouk Stupa near Nam Ngaen Village overlooking the Namtha River Valley.
The original stupa was constructed in 1628 to demarcate neutral territory and as a symbol of friendship between the Lane Xang Kingdom and the Lanna Kingdom based in Chiang Rai, Thailand. An American bomber destroyed the stupa in 1966, but a new monument was constructed right beside the remains in 2003. A sister stupa, That Luang Namtha, was also built by the two kingdoms at the northern end of town on the Namtha River. Forest growth devoured the old monument, prompting locals to build a new golden-tipped stupa in 2004.
That Xieng Teung: Head to Muang Sing’s most sacred shrine sitting on a grassy plateau just outside of town. According to locals, That Xieng Teung Stupa holds Buddha’s Adam’s apple. Historians have yet to date the sizeable golden monument. Smaller stupas stand around the shrine in a well-marked plot shaded by surrounding trees. A set of stairs to the site’s left lead to a sacred fountain and stone. A path to the right wanders towards the old wall and moat, presumably built by those who erected That Xieng Teung. The That Xieng Teung Festival is held here every year in late October or early November, and attracts locals and pilgrims from around the province.
Location: The 1-km dirt road leading up the hill to the stupa is located 5.5 km from the centre of town, on the Luang Namtha road near Km 52.
Temples in Sing Town: You may stumble into some 20 temples around town, but a few stand out. Considered by many to be the town’s most sacred site is Vat Xieng Chai (Vat Luang). Built around 1890, this was the first temple erected within the city’s walls, and sits near the Morning Market. Inspect the intricate gold trim on Vat Xieng Chai’s maroon walls and multi-tiered roof. Inside you’ll find a long-eared Buddha, woven flags with prayers hanging from the ceiling rafters, and colourful, detailed wall murals depicting religious scenes.
On the western end of Muang Sing, visit Vat Xiang Yeun. The large multi-tiered temple is basic white with gold-trimmed windows and doors, and gold décor on the upper exterior wall. You can see Vat Xieng Lae near the bus station in the north end of town. Then, head south and stop at the tiny, gold-decorated Vat Namkeo and its housing for resident monks. You’ll find the temple on the right side of Road 17B to Xieng Kok, just after the turnoff from town.
Vat Boun Huang: Those taking the Nam Tha River Cruise will find Vat Boun Huang in Old Nalae, once the municipal seat for the district. The modest temple was built in 1903 and holds a small collection of golden Buddha images.