Many visitors to the capital city of Laos, Vientiane, are impressed with the quietness and friendliness of the city, and the unique landscape of Buddha Park is among the best places to experience these qualities.
Vientiane is a quiet and romantic city on the bank of the Mekong River. In the local language, Vientiane means “Moon City”, because the Lao people say they were derived from the Moon. Therefore, there is a moon symbol in the middle of the Lao flag.
Lao is a poor country, but many visitors love the peaceful pace of life here. Lao women, even those with modern amenities like mobile phones and cars, frequently still wear the traditional skirt folding at the sides, and perform graceful dances that impress people from around the world.
At dawn, Vientiane is full of sunshine and yellow flowers among the green trees lining the streets. Streets are clean and life in the city is fairly peaceful, without the constant sound of vehicles as in other cities in the region. Lao people are friendly and honest. We hired a tuk tuk to get around the city, paid the driver in advance, and he waited for us at each place.
Buddha Park, about 28 km east of town, attracts tourists to view its more than 200 strange forms that were created in both Buddhist and Hindu style. The park, located on the bank of the Mekong River, is a place not to miss in your Laos Discovery Tours.
The capital of Lao is so peaceful and quiet that motorcycle taxi and bus services are not well developed, so the best way to visit Buddha Park is by tuk tuk. Here you will find hundreds of concrete statues representing forms from Buddhist mythology. Some Buddha statues are seated, while others have different postures. Besides the Buddha statues, there are other statues of devils, monsters, musicians, dancers and strange beasts of concrete. A huge reclining Buddha statue stretches 40 meters long and 10 meters high.
One of the most impressive works, a giant pumpkin, houses three levels inside: hell, earth and heaven. We curiously walked in the entrance, through the mouth of the 2-meter head of a monster, and climbed the stairs through the three levels to reach the top. Standing atop this pumpkin, you get a good overview of the whole park. Across the park from the pumpkin, near the bank of the Mekong, is a tower symbolizing heaven.
This art park was built by Mr. Bounlua in 1958. Mr. Bounlua was not a monk, but he used to wear white robes which made him look like a shaman. He had a wide knowledge of Buddhist philosophy, Hinduism, mythology and symbolism. Mr. Bounlua explained this park full of strange images as an expression of his and his colleagues’ feelings about the Buddha, the gods and the spiritual practices they experienced in their daily life.
We felt that this collection of artwork reflected the common human struggle of the world’s people over time; many of the statues did not seem peaceful, but rather constricted and in conflict. The material used for these statues, unadorned rough concrete left to weather with time, strengthened the sense of decay they conveyed.
We visited Buddha Park on the weekend in our Laos Tour and it was still not crowded. It was a peaceful place to relax and ponder the passage of time and life, as well as learn about the Buddha.
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