Vientiane, the capital of Laos, is home to many Buddhist temples and monasteries. With its foundation dating back to 1563 during the Lan Xang period, Wat Si Muang is one of the oldest and best-known temples here, most popular among locals.
In the past, Wat Si Muang was once associated with royal rituals, sometimes hosting coronation ceremonies. The popular myth claims that it was named after a local pregnant woman, Si, who sacrificed her own life to call upon an ancient guardian spirit to protect the city from an oncoming flood.
Another version of the story, perhaps resulting from mistranslation, has it that multiple pregnant women were sacrificed to prevent evil spirits from causing a disaster. Either way, the mythical Si Muang continues to be remembered and honored as a hero.
The temple itself houses a copy of the Emerald Buddha statue and a sacred stone pillar called the Lák Méuang, an ancient monument believed to enshrine the guardian spirit of the city, as well as several mini-shrines throughout the premises, some gorgeously kitsch. Right outside the temple also stands an imposing statue of King Sisavangvong, the first ruler of the Kingdom of Laos.