That Ing Hang, headlines the province’s sites, and is where Buddha delivered a sermon. Many believe the stupa houses parts of Buddha’s spine. The story continues at That Phonh Stupa, where Buddha’s next step landed 40 km away. You’ll find Savannakhet’s oldest Buddhist temple, Vat Xaiyaphoum on the Mekong banks.
That Ing Hang: Pay respect at Savannakhet’s most sacred site, That Ing Hang Stupa, which houses relics from Buddha. Indian King Asoka allegedly created a monument in 225 BC to sanctify the place where Buddha is believed to have delivered a sermon before resting under a Hang tree, thus the name. It is also thought that the Phathat (funeral reliquary) houses parts of Buddha’s spine. Research shows that a Mon Empire king erected a stupa on the grounds some 1,500 years ago. This smaller monument and area surrounding it was augmented by King Saysethatirath in the 16th century. In 1930, today’s 9-metre-tall, three-tiered carved stucco stupa was constructed in Lane Xang style with the upper level symbolizing a lotus.
The That Ing Hang Festival held over three days in December every year attracts worshippers from around the country. This celebration pays respect to Buddha and those who built the sacred stupa. People place mak beng (small banana-leaf towers with flowers) around it and nuns bless them.
Location: That Ing Hang is located about 15 km from Savannakhet Town. To reach the holy site, travel east on Route 9 and turn right at the police box about 8 km past the “Dinosaur” junction. The sign marking the entrance to That Ing Hang is some 5 km on the right, just past the entrance to Nong Lom Lake. Alternatively, the road heading east from the Savannakhet Town bus station runs about 7 km to Bungva Lake and continues 6 km to the sacred site.
Vat Xaiyaphoum: A stroll through downtown Savannakhet reveals the province’s oldest temple, Vat Xaiyaphoum. Founded in 1542 near the Mekong River during the reign of King Saysethatirath, the temple is surrounded by an elaborate wall. Step inside the large gate to find several structures and dozens of clay Buddha images around the grounds. Though today’s buildings were rebuilt in 1906, they maintain their original architectural style, many with long sweeping or multi-tiered roofs trimmed with gold. You’ll see an ornate gong tower and picture-telling murals on the walls. The temple is the main venue for celebrating the Lao New Year, Mekong Boat Racing Festival, and Buddhist celebrations.
Location: The temple is located on the Mekong River Road between Sotthanou and Kinnali Roads in the centre of town.
Other notable temple in Savannakhet Town include Vat Jom Keo and its golden Buddha in the northern end of town near the Memorial Park, and Xaiyamounkhoun with its detailed murals south of town near airport.
That Phonh: Head to the site that commemorates where Buddha stepped after leaving That Ing Hang. According to legend, Buddha took one 40-km stride to reach the sacred spot where That Phonh Stupa now stands. That Phonh was erected between 557 and 700, and then reconstructed in the 16th century during the reign of King Saysethatirath. That Phonh Festival is held over three days in early February, during which locals place hundreds of baked rice balls at the foot of the monument and offer alms to the spirits of those who built it. They also give uncooked rice to the monks.
Location: From Savannakhet Town, take Route 13 south past Ban Lak 35 bus station for about 5 km before turning right on the road to Vat Sisaket. Turn left at the intersection, and travel about 4 km to That Phonh.
That Oumong Stupa: Stop in at the square-shaped That Oumoung stupa, built between 1940 and 1950, and somewhat resembles That Ing Hang. The monument is topped with very unique ornamentation inspired by the banana flower. Located, about 7 km west of the weaving villages, the stupa is worth a stop for some great photographs. Locals hold an annual festival in late February.
Location: From Savannakhet Town, travel east on Route 9B to Route 13, and then head south for some 40 km to Ban Pakxong. Turn left at the bus station and go about 7 km to a junction, and then turn right. The Laha weaving villages are about 7 km from the junction, and That Oumong is a further 7km west in Ban Lahakok Village.
That Nang Lao Stupa: Visit That Nang Lao Stupa, which houses the remains of a Phouthai princess who was sent by her husband Prince Anouvong (1805-1828) to govern the local Phouthai people.
Location: To reach the stupa, travel on Route 9 to Sepone. Just past Sepone town is a sign marking the turn-off for Route 28A. At this junction head north for about 25 km and you will reach Vilabouly. Take the road west out of Vilabouly Town for about 18 km. When you reach the 18 Km Junction, turn right and go about 10 km to a three-way intersection. Make another right to reach the entrance to the stupa.
Taleo Old Temple: Examine the early 20th-century temple that somewhat resembles a Catholic church, but has a Buddha statue in its alcove and Buddhist iconography. Inside, colourful murals recount the history of the temple and Buddha. American bombing in 1969 took its toll on many of the surrounding buildings but the main temple remains intact.
Location: From Savannakhet Town, travel east on Route 9B for about 35 km to Route 13’s Ban Lak 35. Continue straight for 25 km to Ban Taleo Gnai. Taleo Old Temple is located about 7 km north of Turtle Lake just outside Ban Taleo Gnai.