One of Laos’ most popular attractions is the Luang Prabang Royal Palace Museum, known locally as Haw Kham which translates to ‘the Golden Palace.’ Once the opulent abode of a King, the structure is used today as a museum, to educate the public on Laos’ rich background.
If you’re a history buff, or just interested in learning about Lao history and culture in more depth, then make sure the Royal Palace is on your itinerary. A 2,000-year-old Buddha made of solid gold? A collection of cars that belonged to the last King of Laos? It’s all waiting at the Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang.
A Brief History of the Luang Prabang Royal Palace Museum
The Royal Palace was once the residence of King Sisavang Vong, who served as the King of Laos for 55 years. It was built in 1904, during the French colonial era. The location of the Palace was carefully chosen so that official visitors could be received at the river below, after their voyages to Luang Prabang by boat. Designed by French architects, it served as a symbol of the blossoming relationship between Laos and France, combining the artistry and architectural styles of both nations.
When King Sisavang Vong passed away in 1959, his son inherited the throne. King Sisavang Wathana made many luxurious changes to his father’s palace. He added new rooms, expanded the throne room, and saw that the entire palace was modernized to keep up with the shifting artistic expressions of his time.
When Laos’ monarchy came to an end in 1975, the King abdicated the throne and moved to a private residence near a local temple. The palace was then converted into a museum, with all royal artifacts and architecture preserved for the education of future generations.
Phra Lak Phra Ram Dance at the Royal Palace Museum
Phra Lak Phra Ram is the name given to the Lao adaptation of the Hindu epic, the Ramayana. Since its introduction to Luang Prabang many centuries ago, the story has had a huge influence on Lao culture and arts, making its mark on local music and dance traditions especially. Its name is a combination of the names Phra Lak and Phra Ram, two of the story’s main characters.
The Royal Palace Museum is the best place in Luang Prabang to watch this traditional dance. In a spectacular display, dancers and a live orchestra take a captivated audience on a journey through time to experience the ancient kingdom of Lane Xang. Performances take place in the theatre located on the grounds. Shows take approximately two hours, and photography is not permitted at any point during the performance, so as not to distract the dancers. Photos can only be captured afterward.
Shows take place every Monday, Wednesday, Friday, and Saturday. During the high season, between October and March, performances begin at 6:00 PM. During the low season, between March and September, a later start time of 6:30 PM should be expected. Ticket prices are between 100,000-150,000 kip ($11.40-$17.20), depending on the proximity of seats to the stage. Tickets can be purchased on the official Phra Lak Phra Lam website.
How to Get to the Luang Prabang Royal Palace Museum
Fortunate for all travelers, the museum is centrally located in Luang Prabang, and in walking distance from many other attractions. The museum’s address is 27 Ounheun Road, but please note that the main entrance is on Sisavangvong Road. All visitors in the area will likely notice the structure due to its grand exterior. It is difficult to miss.
Located on the peninsula between Mount Phousi and the Mekong River, the museum is just a 2-minute walk from both the Night Market and Luang Prabang’s tourist center.
What to Wear to the Luang Prabang Royal Palace Museum
The dress code at the Royal Palace is strict and all visitors are asked to dress conservatively, with no exceptions. Both men and women wearing short skirts or shorts are kindly asked to cover up before entering. Garments should fall just below the knee or further. Long skirts are available at the museum for female visitors and can be rented for a small fee. Bare shoulders and chests are also frowned upon, but unfortunately, there are no alternative garments for hire, so make sure you dress accordingly.
Things to Note:
- Shoes and bags are not allowed inside the museum. All guests will be required to place them in a locker before entering. Only very small bags are allowed inside.
- Photography is not allowed inside the museum. Guests will be asked to store all cameras and mobile phones inside lockers. Staff are situated throughout the museum to enforce this rule, so it is advised that guests do not try to sneak anything in.
- Your visit to the museum will not take long. Most visitors are able to see everything on-site in 30-40 minutes.
Opening Hours of the Royal Palace Museum
The museum is open every day of the week. In the morning, it is open from 8 AM to 11:30 AM, and in the afternoon, between 1:30 PM and 4 PM.
On all days, except Thursday, last entry for the museum is at 3:30 PM. Staff at the museum are strict about these hours and will turn visitors away even if they arrive a minute past the last entry time. Ensure that all your belongings are locked away by 3:30 PM for entry into the museum that day.
On Thursdays, the museum closes half an hour earlier in the afternoon, at 3:30 PM.
The entrance fee is 30,000 Kip (approx. $4). Please note, however, that a ticket is only needed for entering the museum; it is completely free to enjoy the beautiful gardens that surround the structure.
More Information About the Luang Prabang Royal Palace Museum
Did you enjoy this article about the Luang Prabang Royal Palace Museum? Do you want even more information about this palace? Then check out these other articles we’ve rounded up for you!
- National Museum of Luang Prabang (and former Royal Palace) from Luang Prabang Tours
- Royal Palace Museum in Luang Prabang from Hotels.com
- Royal Palace in Luang Prabang — The Last Palace of Laotian Royalty by Huong Lien Nguyen from I Love Asia Tour
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