As I understand it, this temple was built in 1565 to house the famous “Emerald Buddha,” now in Bangkok’s Wat Phra Keo. Apparently the Emerald Buddha had been taken from Northern Thailand in 1551, to Vientiane and placed inside Ho Phra Keo – which was actually called “Vat Phra Keo” at the time the Emerald Buddha was there.
In 1778, the Thai’s captured the Emerald Buddha and took it back to Wat Phra Keo in Bangkok – where it resides to this day.
The Thai’s returned in 1828, and sacked Vientiane; destroying Ho Phra Keo in the process. It was then rebuilt in 1936, and restored in 1993.
From walking around there, it’s obvious to me that much of the building and artifacts are far, far older than 1936, or even 1828. I suspect that the “rebuilding” was more of a “reassembly” of the old ruins IMO.
The official English name for this building today is Ho Phra Keo Museum. I say “official” because it’s the name on the sign at the front door! If you look carefully, you can even see the sign in the video above.
Things make a lot more sense when you understand the words involved:
“Wat” is the English spelling for the word that means “temple,” used on temple signs in Thailand
“Vat” means the same thing but is more often seen on signs in Lao temples.
“Ho” means “altar.”
“Phra Keo” means the Emerald Buddha.
So when “Vat Phra Keo” lost the Emerald Buddha, it became “Ho Phra Keo.” In other words, the “Temple of the Emerald Buddha,” became the “Altar of the Emerald Buddha.” With all of the relics that are now inside (which you are not allowed to film, BTW) it was only natural to go one more step, and make this into a museum.