The Haw Phra Kaew was first built between 1565 and 1556 during the reign of King Setthathirath in the old capital of Laos. This temple formerly housed the Emerald Buddha figurine, which Setthathirath had brought from Chiang Mai to Luang Prabang.
When Vientiane was seized by Siam (now Thailand) in 1778, the figurine was taken to Thonburi and the temple was destroyed. It was rebuilt by King Annouvong of Vientiane in the 19th century. It was burnt again by Siamese forces when King Annouvong rebelled against Siam in an attempt to regain full independence. The temple was rebuilt for a third time by the French in the 1920's, during colonization of French Indochina. The revered Buddha now resides in Wat Phra Kaew or “the temple of the emerald Buddha” in Bangkok.
The Haw Phra Kaew in Vientiane now houses several exquisite Laotian Buddha statues and Buddhist antiquities, one of the finest collections of Lao art in the country. Photography is prohibited inside, but there is plenty to see and photograph outside.
Located on Setthathirat Road (just past the Presidential Palace and across the street from Wat Si Saket and the best time to visit the temple is in the early morning or an hour or two before it closes in the afternoon.