Exploring That Dam Stupa’s Black Enchantment in Vientiane

Nestled in the heart of Vientiane, the capital city of Laos lies a hidden gem that exudes a captivating aura of mystery and tranquility. The That Dam Stupa, also known as the Black Stupa, is a revered landmark that offers visitors a glimpse into this enchanting country’s rich historical and cultural tapestry. With its imposing presence and intriguing legends, this ancient stupa is a must-visit destination for those seeking a unique and immersive travel experience.

That Dam Black Stupa in Vientiane, Laos
That Dam Black Stupa in Vientiane, Laos

Where is it?

I had no intention of seeing this untouched gem of a relic until I stumbled on it while walking to Patuxai.

Located on a serene roundabout in central Vientiane, That Dam Stupa, also known as the Black Stupa, is a 16th-century Buddhist monument that carries an air of mystery and charm. Just a short distance away from Talat Sao (morning market) and the American Embassy, this ancient stupa holds significant cultural and spiritual significance in the hearts of the locals.

Although its exact origins remain shrouded in mystery, it is believed to date back to the 16th century, making it one of the oldest surviving monuments in Vientiane. Its distinct black color from an ancient curse adds to its enigmatic allure.

Its lack of refurbishment sets That Dam Stupa apart from neighboring religious sites. Unlike the endless renovations and reconstructions seen in many temples and stupas in nearby countries, That Dam retains its original form, offering visitors a glimpse into its rich history and authenticity.

That Dam Black Stupa in Vientiane, Laos 1
That Dam Black Stupa in Vientiane, Laos

The Legends of the Black Stupa

One of the most fascinating aspects of That Dam Stupa is its assortment of legends. According to local folklore, a seven-headed Naga serpent once protected a precious gem that bestowed immortality upon the city. However, when a Siamese prince tried to steal the gem, the Naga released a curse, turning the once-golden stupa into the black stupa it is today. Locals believe that the curse still lingers, protecting the city from harm.

Another legend goes that That Dam Stupa is believed to house a magnificent seven-headed naga and has a transformative ability, including assuming a human form. Naga figures prominently in Hindu and Buddhist mythologies, with tales such as the Naga King Mucalinda protecting Lord Buddha from rain during his 49-day meditation session leading to enlightenment.

Exploration and Surroundings

While the stupa itself is an awe-inspiring sight, the surrounding area offers further exploration opportunities. Nearby, you’ll find charming cafes, vibrant markets, and traditional temples, allowing you to immerse yourself in the local culture. You can easily walk from the stupa to Patuxai, Wat Sisaket, and Wat Phra Keo.

Where to Stay in Vientiane

I’d recommend these two highly-rated hostels in Vientiane: Nana Backpackers Hostel and SYRI Guesthouse Hostel and Cafe. BOTH hostels have standard and dormitory-type rooms. They are also in the center of the city and within walking distance of all the sights you want to see in Vientiane. And if you are a wandering nomad, their wifi connection is good, too!

Bangkok to Vientiane by Train via Nong Khai

Well, there’s really no direct train from Bangkok to Vientiane. All you have to do is take an overnight train from Bangkok (Bang Sue Station) to Nong Khai Train Station (close to the border with Laos). You can buy your train and bus tickets here.

From there, you take a tuk-tuk to the border (20 Baht), cross the border, and then take a bus (35 Baht) to the Laos immigration border office. And once you pass the Laos immigration, take another bus to Vientiane Central Station (13,000kip).


A wanderer. A frustrated photographer. Hiker. Lover. Half extrovert, half introvert. Solo traveler.

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