Soon we will head back to Laos for a new visa and to visit friends. While Laos somehow missed this blog, I did write about my volunteering there on my other blog (which is more focused on that.) With the recent “see you later” to another friend we met there, it seemed a good time to revisit Buddha Park, where our friendship grew.
Buddha Park, in Laos, could best be described as unusual. I went knowing only that it was a park and had Buddhist and Hindu statues. It seemed a good enough way to spend the day.
Our fantastic guesthouse warned it was far so we rented their driver and van to take us there. It took us about an hour to get there, from Vientiane, because the roads were full of holes, making driving slow-going. This turned out to be a good thing as it gave us more time to speak with the woman from our guesthouse, that I’d thought to invite along (hooray for me being outgoing!). So we bumped our way along the road, chit-chatting about life in Bangkok and how much we appreciated the quiet Vientiane streets, in comparison.
We arrived at the park a little after three, the sun hot and foiling many desired pictures of the huge statues that dominate the park. Some of the statues appear timelsss, but as I learned from Wikipedia, it was started in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat. The statues are made of reinforced concrete and of all sorts of creatures from dieties to humans to animals. We took our time going through each of them, looking to one another to provide any frame of reference for what we were seeing. We most often came up empty handed.
The park houses a mix of Buddhist and Hindu statues. Some of the major deities I could guess at but there seemed to be a lot of other story lines that left me wondering. Then again, the major Hindu deities I thought I had nailed were labeled as Buddhas.
Even with no frame of reference, the park was interesting to go through (unless you are a Whovian, in which case you should avoid. Luckily, I’d not seen Blink at that point.)
Our two most favorite statues/structures were the largest ones. A very steep pagoda, in the back of the park, and a large, not sure what, in the front of the park.
The large pagoda in the back hosts a steep set of stairs to get to the top. A novice monk said that it represented heaven, as heaven is difficult to access and not everyone will obtain it. Being the fearless adventures that we are, we gave it a shot. I kicked off my shoes so I wouldn’t slip and was treated to cement that had been baking all day in the sun. It definitely add to the challenge of ascending the skinny steps to reach the very top. The top rewarded with a nice view but then the challenge of getting back down. I debated just living up there but the small room at the top was a bit tiny.
The other fascinating structure was large and circular, hosting levels to represent hell, earth, and heaven. It was hollow and we entered through the mouth of a demon. Once inside, there was very little light from the outside but luckily James lead the way with his flashlight. So we were able to find all the staircase before we fell through them. We worked our way up through the various levels, passing more incredibly creepy statues. We emerged on the top of the structure for another great view of the park and the sun beginning to set.
With the park about to close, we ended our day with group photos and navigated ourselves through the crazy rooms again. With a fond farewell, we took off for our long drive home down a very bumpy road, delighting at all of the domesticated wildlife on the loose.
Afterwards our trip continued to a fantastic Laos restaurant and an ill-fated trip to see a Laos traditional show. We opted instead for a tour of a mall and found a fantastic treasure-trove of Engrish notebooks, which entertained us for hours.
I’d recommend checking out the Buddha Park, it definitely has its own charm. Do bring a hat and don’t take a tuktuk for the journey, as it is long and the roads are dusty!