Laos’ grand stupa, Pha That Luang (pictured), was built over an ancient stupa in the 16th century by King Setthathirath when he moved the capital of Lane Xang Kingdom from Luang Prabang to Vientiane. It has since become the national symbol of Laos and is profoundly revered by all its countryfolk. Once a year for three days, That Luang stupa is the focus of a three-day religious festival celebrated at full moon in November, beginning with a pre-dawn gathering of thousands of pilgrims from Laos and Thailand who listen to prayers and sermons chanted by hundreds of monks all representing Lao wats. There follows a grand procession to pay homage to Lady Si Meuang, who was crushed to death as the city’s foundation pillar was about to be planted and has since become the protector of Vientiane and its inhabitants. The procession ends with a giant firework display which symbolises an offering of flowers of light to Lord Buddha.