The featured image in this post shows a map of the Muang Fuang District in Vientiane Province. This district is not only where my wife’s parents village of Ban Na Ang is located, it is the locus of several sites that the Lao people believe are where Sinxay related events occurred. These sites are marked on this map with corresponding photos. Ban Na Ang village is located about 2/3 of the way down the map.
Like anything related to Sinxay there is so much we could say. In this post are focus is on Wat Sinxay, the only wat in Laos named after Sinxay because of all the nearby Sinxay-related sites. It is only about a mile away from Ban Na Ang. When we visit Bai’s parents, we usually end up walking the dirt road between the two villages since Bai’s aunt lives in Ban Non. Plus, its a wonderful walk (not counting the dust during the dry season!) through a beautiful area with tall limestone karsts jutting high alongside the road and bordering rice fields to the northwest. In the photo gallery we’ve created for this post, you can see a sunset view we enjoyed when walking back to Ban Na Ang from Ban Non. This sunset and the view that shows a “missing section” of the karst was in fact the trigger for our interest in Sinxay. Legend has it that this section was “blown out,” when Sinxay was fighting Nyak Koumphan and the power from his sword ricochetted off of Koumphan, blasting away a part of the limestone cliffs.
Most villages in Laos, if they have a wat, name the wat after the name of the village. The wat in Ban Na Ang is Wat Na Ang. But in Ban Non the name of the wat is Wat Sinxay, given that name because of the important geographical associations with the story of Sinxay. You can see those associations marked on the map of Muang Fuang district with accompanying photos
What’s interesting about Wat Sinxay is how it has dramatically changed within the last eight years. It was just about eight years ago that the wat was “discovered” by two Lao brothers and their mother. The two brothers are well known monks and the mother is a nun (mae kow). The story is they lived in Thailand for a long time and have some wealthy benefactors, and over the last six years have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars into the wat complex, including holding festivals where thousands of people come. This area is not conveniently located so it’s amazing that they’ve been able to attract such huge crowds and associated donations. But what is unfortunate is that although the wat is named after the association with Sinxay there is nothing within the wat that acknowledges connections with Sinxay. No statues, no murals, nothing. It’s incongruous at best and I hope it’s something we can change with the work we are doing.
It’s mind boggling and there’s almost too much glitz and glamour, even if it is Buddhist, with the emphasis seeming to be on raising money. We’ve created a photo gallery of photos that show the original Wat Sinxay and glimpses of what Wat Sinxay looks like now here.