Between the commercial strip of shops and restaurants at the center of Luang Prabang and the Mekong River are two small temples. The slightly larger of these is Wat Xieng Muan. Its a charming little temple that almost always has a few young novices around to chat with foreigners. A lot of people pass through the temple to get from Sisavong Vang Road to the guest houses and restaurants along the Mekong River.
The small sim has a beautiful gable end carved with geometric patterns. Inside the ceiling is stenciled with gold nagas. The walls are also painted in gold with scenes from the life of Buddha.
In the compound in front of the sim are several funery stupas, off to one side.
On the other side of the compound are workshops and display areas. With support from Unesco, the former monk's quarters have been turned into a classroom where the traditional artistic skills needed to maintain the temples of Luang Prabang are taught. You can sometimes see the monks at work on sculpture, fretwork or other crafts. When we visited in August of 2003, the monks were putting a new roof on the sim of the temple next door, Wat Chum Khong.
In a sort of hollow behind Wat Xieng Muan is a recently restored large house. The elevated long house is similar to typical homes in the country-side, but much larger. The seals on the gable end suggest royal associations, but there is not much information available about the building available on the sign announcing the restoration.