Built in 1904 as the official residence of the King Sisavang Vong and his family, the Haw Kham (or Golden Hall) in Luang Prabang is filled with the history of the country running from the early French colonial period until 1975, when the last king in throne relinquished his power. The Haw Kham as you see it now is actually a reconstruction of the old palace, which was demolished in 1887 by country raiders. The old structure was built facing the Mekong River, while the new structure now is facing Mount Phousi.
The Royal Palace, below which is a platform where one could alight from a boat, was used as a receiving point for visitors of the King traveling by sea. The last royal family to have occupied the Haw Kham was the crown Prince Savang Vatthana and his family. It was under his reign that the monarchy ended when he was ousted from his position by the communists.
After that, the palace was converted into a museum, which is now one of the most interesting historical places in Luan Prabang today.
The Haw Kham Royal Palace Museum contains the most significant Buddha image in the city. The Pha Bang Buddha was said to be the Buddha statue that gave the city its name Luang Prabang. Made mostly out of gold material, the image is 83 cm high and weighs 54 kilos. The statue goes back to 1st Century A.D. and was said to have come from Sri Lanka. It is considered holy by Laotians because it was believed to have been made in heavens and it is said that it has the power to protect the whole country. The Pha Bang Buddha is the most highly valued possession of the museum, and it now sits in the Haw Pha Bang Chapel, which was the private chapel of the royal family and was recently declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You will also find the Throne Hall striking, with the brightly colored pieces of glass and mirrors decorating the interiors. Inside, you shall see the royal insignia and paraphernalia. Amazingly, the King’s swords were also left there, along with his elephant saddle.
Within the museum’s complex, you’ll also find structures of interest including the Royal Kitchen and Pantry, the Royal Barge Shelter, the Conference Hall and the Staff Headquarters. The architecture of the palace along with its surrounding gardens and edifices are also remarkable.
The architecture of the Golden Hall is a combination of Laotian and European styles. The building takes the shape of a crucifix, with its entrance located in the crossbar. Above the entrance is the royal emblem, a three-headed elephant image covered by a white umbrella.
The steps leading to the entrance hall are made up of Italian marble and several different religious objects of royal origin can be found on display in the main entrance hall. At the entrance of the palace, there are also two cannons, and on the grounds are a lotus pond and a statue of King Sisavang Vong.
Opening Hours: The Haw Kham is open every day from 8:00 A.M. to 11:00 A.M and 1:30 P.M. to 4:30 P.M.