Wat Ho Pha Bang

Buddhist Temple in Luang Prabang

Image by Kimberley Coole Getty Images

The sacred Pha Bang image, from which the city takes its name, is stored in this highly ornate pavilion that wasn't completed until 2011 (though it looks much older). The 83cm-tall, gold-alloy Buddha arrived in 1512, spiritually legitimising the Lan Xang royal dynasty as Buddhist rulers. Legend has it, it was cast around the 1st century AD in Sri Lanka, and was twice carried off to Thailand (in 1779 and 1827) by the Siamese, but was finally restored to Laos in 1867.