Thursday, 26th February 2015
Pass an afternoon exploring Vientiane's Buddha Park
Dating back to 1958, when it was constructed by a monk named Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat, who studied Hinduism as well as Buddhism, Buddha Park should be included on any itinerary to Laos. With more than 200 sculptures to behold it is possible to spend a whole morning or afternoon exploring the site.
Located around 25 kilometres from Vientiane, visitors access the park by walking through a three-metre high demon's mouth. While entering, look for the stone ladder incorporated into the structure, as this will give you a view over the whole park and help to get your bearings.
Two religions collide
Known in Laotian as Xieng Kuan Park, its English name Buddha Park is something of a misnomer, as there are plenty of images of Hindu gods, demons and animals, as well as sculptures of Buddhas. Look out for Erawan, the king of the Hindu gods riding a three-headed elephant.
No matter which religion the pieces are derived from, each one has been exquisitely carved in great detail and the majority of them are very large in size. Spending a few hours wandering around these impressive sculptures is not just inspiring, but also surreal.
A quirky attraction
It is a good idea to have the right impression before heading to the Buddha Park, as it is a fun place to visit, but is not one that showcases traditional techniques. The sculptures are made from steel frames and cement, which allowed construction to take place at speed. Time and the weather has taken its toll on some of the pieces and you will not see the stone carvings on display at other sites in South East Asia. As long as you know this before visiting it should not put you off.
A little background knowledge
Those who will get the most out of the Buddha Park are people who have read a little about Buddhism and Hinduism or otherwise know the background to the main myths or legends. This is because there are no hints or notes given to the significance of statues within the park itself, so coming prepared is a good idea.
Visitors can expect to pay a fee to enter the park, but it is very small, while another diminutive charge is also levied for taking photos. The park is open between 8am and 6pm each day, although it can get very hot around midday. Travel to the park can be achieved by bus or tuk tuk. A small local cafe means you can sit by the river and enjoy a meal or a snack to round off your visit.