Buddha Park location
The Buddha park, which has the local name Xieng Khuan, is located out of the capital of Laos, Vientiane. The distance from the center of Vientiane to the Buddha park is around 25 km. It’s actually closer to the border crossing with Thailand than to Vientiane itself. The border between Thailand and Laos is the friendship bridge over the Mekong river, as the Mekong is the border between the two countries. The road that goes from Vientiane to the Buddha Park is in a terrible condition as per Nov 2017. Therefore the time to get there takes actually longer than the time to spend at the Buddha Park, especially when you count two ways of driving.
Buddha Park History
The park was established in 1958 by Luang Pu, who was a priest shaman. This man kind of combined Hinduism and Buddhism, which are related or connected from the very beginning of Buddhism. With the communist revolution in 1975 going on, Luang Pu was getting nervous to be punished for creating this religious statues park and therefore escaped over the Mekong to Thailand. There he established another Buddha Park. A few kilometers between the two parks, with the Mekong in between them.
Statues and Sculptures
In the park you will see over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues and sculptures. Not like you see in Buddhist temples around Asia, with the golden paint or color. The ones in this park are made of concrete without being painted. It gives a total different look to the statues. Sculptures of Buddha and Avalokitsevara are present, but also characters of Hinduism like Shiva, Vishnu and Arjuna. More sculptures of animals, humans, gods and demons can be found in a park that looks like a big garden. The statues and sculptures are standing in what looks like a disorganized or chaotic way, but it’s not that bad once you walk the paths between the statues and sculptures.
The first sculpture you’ll see is the big kind of pumpkin. This pumpkin has 3 floors, which are meant to be heaven, hell and earth. You have to enter the pumpkin through a mouth. Inside the pumpkin it’s somewhat unclear which way to go. There are no signs or arrows showing you which direction to walk. Before you realize it, you pass the what are supposed to be stairs to a floor higher. They are small, high and it’s quite dark. Most of all it can be really crowded, where it’s only possible to go up or down with one person at the time. Still, it’s well worth the view of the total park from the top of the pumpkin.
Unfortunately it’s unclear what the thing that looks like a tree is supposed to be on top. It could be the Bodhi tree under which Buddha reached enlightenment in Bodhgaya, India. There are no brochures available and no panels, boards or anything with an English description of associated statue or sculpture. When you walk to the end, you will see the Mekong and a place to eat and drink.
The entry ticket cost 5000 LAK (Laotian Kip), which is less than $1. They charge another 50 cents for bringing in a camera. It’s not clear if a phone falls under that category.
How to get there
The cheapest way by far is a local bus, although you need to get yourself to the bus station. The problem in Vientiane is that there are hardly any normal car taxis. The few that are to be found are the waiting ones who overcharge you two to five times the normal rate. Motorbike taxis aren’t available either. This means that you have only one option left other than a local bus and that is a tuktuk. The drivers of the tuktuks show you what looks like an official card. Laminated, picture of the driver on it and the prices to all kinds of places like embassies, sightseeing places and of course, the Buddha Park.
Someone later told me that the drivers make those cards themselves to cheat customers. When you walk away because it’s too expensive, they call you back and ask you how much you want to pay. If you go to half of the price mentioned on their card, they refuse. It’s far, it’s impossible and more excuses like that. So at the end you end up with a small discount on their card price. 200.000 LAK (around $25), two ways, is a lot for a very uncomfortable tuktuk. Although as mentioned earlier, the distance is 25 km one way and the roads are bad. The driver waits for you as long as you want at the park. The price is good when you are with more people to share the ride and price.
It might not be a must see place, but the Buddha Park is definitely worth visiting and a recommendation!
An impression video of the park can be seen here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GXYjqvktAwI