Published for the Royal Geographical Society by J. Murray,
Text on page 55
TEE UPPER MEKONG, SIAM.
Luang Prabang (March, 1893).
Making expeditions in various directions, Luang Prabang was our head-quarters for about three weeks. Of all the country round, the town itself seems to be the hottest place, and to be away in the jungle was infinitely preferable to staying in the bungalow, where at sunset the thermometer was generally still at 92A. Unlike Nan, Chieng Mai, or Korat, there is no wall around the town, which is the usual collection of substantial teak houses, and large roomy monasteries, of which one-half are in ruins. The latter, however, show signs of some fine gilding and decorative work, and a good deal of architectural effort has been expended upon them. They have been allowed, after the strange custom of the Buddhists, to fall to rack and ruin without an attempt being made to save them; because, one would think, by some strange mistake, the repairing of a monastery makes no merit, though building a brand-new one, however third-rate in style or bad in finish, is one of the highest of merit-making acts.
The chief points one notices in which these wats differ from those in Nan are, the generally low effect, the roofs rising less strikingly than that, for instance, at Muang Sa; the raising at the centre of the roof of what at a distance looks not unlike the lantern of a college hall, which is merely an exterior addition, and does not admit light or air; the small-scale* buildings, of which there are often several in the enclosure, which are best described as being like tiny chapels with vaulted roof, in which, of course, innumerable a phras a stand at the inner end, and which are usually about 14 feet in length, and beautifully proportioned ; the small pedestals, which are disposed about on all sides, in a niche in which the small phra is always to be seen; and, finally, the substantial character of the stone enclosure which surrounds the monastery buildings, with often an effective
* Called a weeban,a or shrine.* Called a weeban,a or shrine.