Exterior of Wat Ho Pha Bang, Luang Prabang

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Wat Ho Pha Bang

Luang Prabang

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. The 83cm-tall, gold-alloy Buddha arrived in 1512, spiritually legitimising the Lan Xang royal dynasty as Buddhist rulers. It was cast around the 1st century AD in Sri Lanka and gifted to Laos by the kings of Angkor. It was twice carried off to Thailand (in 1779 and 1827) by the Siamese, but was finally restored to Laos in 1867.