Luang Nathma is home to two beautiful golden stupas, That Luang Namtha and That Phum Phuk that should not be missed while visiting here. The original stupas were built in the 17th century to symbolise and commemorate the friendship between Sy Sod So Tammikarad King of Xieng Sean (Xieng Sean the present day north of Thailand) and Naleatafai King of Chanthabouly (Present day Oudomxay province, Laos). Both were rebuilt in 2004 and 2003, with the latter having been destroyed by an American plane, with the ruins still visible on site. These rebuilds shouldn’t put any potential visitor off as not being the originals, as the newly painted gold on both stupas is both dazzling and awe inspiring; a lot of care and attention has been put into these rebuilds and they are used and treasured by the local community. These stunning monuments can be seen peeking through the lush greenery that surrounds Luang Nathma. With a map and a motorbike, off we went!
That Luang Namtha stupa
That Luang Namtha is the closest and largest of the two stupas, with no real need for a motorbike to visit, as it’s only a 10 minute walk, northwest from the town centre. As we drove to the top of the hill where the stupa is situated, we passed Wat Samakyxay, which is currently under construction. Even in its current phase, the beautiful ornate roof gives a clue to what the finished building will look like, which we’re sure will be another stunning addition to Luang Namtha.
As we arrived at the stupa, it was calm, quiet and peaceful. The view of Luang Namtha is worth the trip alone, as it stretches across the mountains and to the rice paddies below. The golden stupa itself shines beautifully on a sunny day and we’d certainly recommend visiting at sunrise or sunset for an even more striking view. We were lucky to find, when we arrived, that people were inside making offerings and chanting; it was lovely to listen to, whilst obviously keeping a respectable distance. Behind the stupa there are more statues including a large reclining Budda and a small man-made cave with more statuary inside.
That Phum Phuk stupa
That Phum Phuk stupa is a little further out of town near Nam Ngaen village (about 5km away, so a bicycle or motorbike is needed) and can been seen nestled into the hill as you approach. The stairs to the stupa are visible from the roadside, however there is a road to the right handside for closer access with a motorbike or bicycle. Although it is smaller than it’s paired ‘twin’ stupa, the views are still as beautiful and the peaceful atmosphere is matched, if not beaten by the cows grazing nearby with their tiny bells softly chiming. The ruins of the previous stupa can be seen here and add an interesting contrast between the old and new.
Having been to many temples and religious monuments throughout Asia, these are both now included in our favourites. Although they might not be on such a grand scale as other stupas they both, more importantly, feel untouched by tourism… Go now before everyone else catches on!
Both stupas are only 5,000 kip each to visit.