Wat Xieng Khuan

Buddha Park

The Buddha Park or Wat Xieng Khuan in Vientiane, Laos is located about 25 kilometers outside the Vientiane Capital. Buddha park is decorated by over 200 concrete Hindu and Buddhist statues. The Park was built by a senior monk named Bounleua Sulilat in 1958 and was his attempt to integrate Buddhism and Hinduism. Each figure in the Park has its own story; for example the Giant has a big mouth and represents three stages of life – Hell Earth and Heaven. Climbing inside, you will see many sculptures and models that represent the imagination of the three worlds as you ascend to the top.

Is more curious than spectacular. The rogue monk is said to have attempted to reconsolidate Buddhism and Hinduism into his own brand of mysticism through a rather prolific collection of sculptures depicting various deities and scenes from both religionsin the 1950s. The choice of building material, cement with steel frames, provided a swifter means of production than the traditional stone carvings, but also a less durable outcome. Many of the sculptures are weathered and crumbling, adding to the aesthetic of a ruin from the not-so-distant past.

The park provides no context for the various myths it depicts, ranging from the beautifully serene to the grotesquely surreal; a little background reading about the main myths of Buddhism and Hinduism would probably enrich the trip for most visitors beyond simply snapping pictures of the many sculptures.

The park has a sister across the river in Nong Khai, built in 1978. The Thai version is bigger and much better, and much easier to get to. The one in Vietntiane involves a challenging drive over a pothole infested dirt road for many kilometres. The park has a small restaurant at the end, which is a nice spot to sit with some Beer Lao and fried rice while overlooking the river. Large amounts of sand are currently being transported around this part of the river, so the view involves a lot of heavy machinery, but it isn’t noisy or particularly bothersome.

Xieng Khouang is a province in Laos that has a violent history. It is considered the most bombed province in a country that was also the most heavily bombed in the world, and the plateau is one of the places that served as a battleground for many conflicts. If Xieng Khouang should be known as anything, it should be famous as the testament to the resilience of the Lao people. The people who live in the area have embraced the province's past and learned to incorporate what was left of the war into their own lives. Travellers who find their way in Xieng Khouang can visit a village here that is dedicated to war remnants such as shrapnel and bomb material. 

Buddha park near Vientiane is more curious than spectacular. The creator of the Buddha Park is Luang Soulilat Bounlua Pou, a shaman who claimed to have been a disciple of the Hindu holy man in Viet Nam and integrated Hinduism with Buddhism. He began his return to Laos Sculpture Park in 1958. After the revolution in 1975, Bounlua Soulilat forced into exile across the River to Nong Khai in Thailand,where he built a more elaborate version of his vision-Sala Keoku. Since his exile, the Socialist Government of Laos has operated Buddha Park as a tourist attraction and a public park. There are statues of the Buddha, Hindu Lore characters, gods, animals and even Demons. It is located along the banks of the Mekong River. As a rogue monk he was said to have attempted to reconsolidate Buddhism and Hinduism into his own brand of mysticism through a rather prolific collection of sculptures depicting various deities and scenes from both religionsin the 1950s. The choice of building material, cement with steel frames, provided a swifter means of production than the traditional stone carvings, but also a less durable outcome. Many of the sculptures are weathered and crumbling, adding to the mystique of the park.

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