Wat Si Muang is one of Vientiane’s most popular sites of worship, and offers a fascinating insight into how old animist beliefs have blended seamlessly with Theravada Buddhism. According to local legend, when the temple was being built in 1563 a young pregnant woman named Si Muang volunteered to sacrifice herself to appease the angry spirits. She threw herself into a hole in the ground where the building’s central pillar was to be placed, and was crushed when the massive pillar was lowered into position. This central pillar also formed the centre of the town that was springing up around Wat Si Muang, which to this day is revered as the ‘mother temple’ of Vientiane. During the That Luang Festival every October or November, this temple is one of the focal points of the celebrations, and Si Muang is fêted as a guardian of the city. On a daily basis, Wat Si Muang attracts crowds of local Buddhists who want to benefit from its ‘good luck’ powers. It is commonly thought that if you pray for something here and simultaneously make a promise, your wish will be granted, providing you return and fulfil your promise.