Thursday, October 4, 2012

Vientiane: Wat Si Saket

Tim and I got the chance to spend a few days in Vientiane, the sleepy (although quickly awakening!) capital of Laos.  Vientiane is tiny compared to other Southeast Asian capital cities, with less than a million people calling it home.  It's right on the big, muddy Mekong River, with northern Thailand visible just on the other side.  Traffic barely exists, nor are buildings over 12 stories particularly common... totally chill.  A big difference from crowded, trafficky Jakarta.

The first site I visited is Wat Si Saket, the oldest standing temple and monastery in Vientiane.  Built in 1818, it was constructed in a Bangkok style, which may be the reason it was spared from a razing when the Siamese invaded the city ten years later, as described in the sign below:

The temple is surrounded by over 10,000 Buddha statues, big and small:

There was also a closet full of sad, broken Buddhas, discovered in the rubble of Vientiane after the war:

In the center of the temple grounds is the sim, the main part of the temple and the ordination hall.  I wasn't allowed to use my camera on the inside, but it had even more tiny Buddha statues in the walls as well as some neat, but fading murals depicting Buddha's past lives.

This long rail thing below, as well as the one in the photos above, are troughs used to pour water over and clean the Buddhas during the Buddhist New Year... they both have a naga, the snake deity, on them.

Below is the temple's former library, where all of the palm leaf documents describing the Buddhist philosophy were kept... you can see the formerly laquered cabinet in which they were stored through the doors:

The temple is surrounded by many small stupas, which hold the ashes of cremated temple devotees:

Aaaand... fat Buddha, skinny Buddha:

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