The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Tag: Destinations, Laos, North Laos   Type:
May 13, 2011   2 Comments

The Buddha Park

The Buddha Park, also known as Xieng Khuan or Spirit City, is a collage of concrete moulded statues of Buddhist and Hindu deities and other bizarre figures, 25k outside of Vientiane, Laos. It’s a large collection of all shapes and sizes, a theme park of religious imagery but one that includes rabbits, insects, skulls….and a giant pumpkin…along with hundreds of other curiosities.

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

View of the Buddha park from the top of the giant pumpkin

Getting to the Buddha Park
They sit near the border with Thailand in an obscure field alongside the Mekhong – across the river you can see glimpses of distinctly Thai temples. We took a reasonably pricey tuk tuk (despite haggling – the Vientiane tuk tuks are particularly tourist-savvy, whipping out their laminated menus of attractions with silly inflated prices) for the 45 min ride each way having turned our noses up at the crowded and hot local bus. Upon arrival you buy both yourself and your camera a ticket…should you wish to take some pics.

Yogi priest shaman
The Buddha Park was built in 1958 by a yogi priest shaman called Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat who combined ‘philosophy, mythology and iconography into a cryptic whole’….as Lonely Planet helpfully explains. We didn’t try to unravel the meaning (how long would that take?!); it was enough to just take in the visual spectacle.

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Three-headed elephant, a common Buddhist symbol, especially in Laos, the land of a million elephants

Our impressions
Although all you’re looking at are lumps of concrete (rather than the wealth of genuine ancient artwork you easily come across as you travel the region), this does not detract from their artistic attention to detail. Looking dusty, worn and weather-beaten, they could easily be mistaken for something hundreds of years old.

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Strange intricately-carved serpent figure

Individually each piece is interesting (we burnt through our camera memory sticks pretty easily) but as a collection it’s a great sight, with something more incredible around the next corner. Local monks revere the place and in particular a giant reclining Buddha. This lies next to nearby trippy, artistic indulgences, such as the giant pumpkin with labyrinth inside – this is what makes it a fascinating place to check out.

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Massive Reclining Buddha, the main attraction

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Carly finally finds her way out of the pumpkin

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

It's not real Carly!

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Smiling female statues

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Another huge sculpture at the Buddha park

Other activities in Vientiane

Food & Drink
We enjoyed a particularly cool bar & restaurant in town (owned by a friend of a friend), Sticky Fingers, which serves excellent wine and very good food. After a few stomach upsets, we were happy just to settle for Western comfort-food for a couple of days and luckily Vientiane dishes up some good food options so we were well served.

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

Tom Yam Cocktail, a blended mix of the ingredients of the dish, compete with a chilli

Patouxai – Laos’ Arc de Triomphe
The city has its own (slightly larger to spite the French) version of the Arc de Triomphe providing some nice views from up high, after the 7-story climb. It was built 50 years ago as a monument to the Laotians who fought to gain independence from France. Some ornate decorations and the pretty surrounding gardens make it a worthy visit.

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

View from the Patouxai Monument

National Monument
Pha That Luang, the golden national monument of Laos, consists of a 45m high stupa surrounded by cloisters. Some other pretty temples are nearby. It’s slightly run down with the gold paint peeling off and hence a little underwhelming, especially if you walked there for an hour in the sun like us!

 The Buddha Park and Vientiane

The National Monument in Vientiane, Laos. Best viewed from afar - don't bother paying the admission fee for a closer look

Laos National Museum
The hot and shabby national museum houses a fairly lengthy collection of artefacts, photos and memorabilia from Laos history (especially guns and associated propaganda about the secret war). Some information is in English but it’s hard to recommend the museum other than for a fleeting visit to get out of the sun.

Some admin – extending our Laos visa
At the relevant office for extending your visa, there are 3 windows of interest – windows 5, 6 and 7. The ridiculous process for achieving the right to stay in Laos longer goes something like this (bear in mind each window has a queue you join each time…): 6 then 7 then 6 then 7 then 5 then 7…..come back tomorrow to 7.

In a small office with one pathetic fan and the typical Laos customer service skills (i.e. none whatsoever, not even a reciprocated smile or hello) this was an unnecessarily painful process. However, it meant that we had enough time to head south and explore the less-well-travelled part of Laos.



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2 Responses to “The Buddha Park and Vientiane”

David @ MalaysiaAsia
May 29th, 2011 @ 4:52 pm

Hi there, I have to say – We have almost similar pictures from Buddha Park. As you guys took a tuk tuk, I did the other, riding a motorbike there and it was indeed an experience to remember. After reading and seeing your pics, I’m thinking of going back there again, maybe in 2012. Where are you guys now? Anyway, here is my article just on the Buddha Park if you would like to see it – http://blog.malaysia-asia.my/2009/07/buddha-park-in-vientiane-laos.html

David

Ben RTWT
May 30th, 2011 @ 1:04 am

Thanks David – nice article and I love your photos–the Buddha park is definitely worth all the effort to get there.

We’re currently in Vietnam, which we’re absolutely loving!

Ben

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