Monday, October 8, 2012

Vientiane: Xieng Khuan

While in Vientiane, Tim and I decided to head just outside of town to check out the famed oddity, Xieng Khuan (Spirit City), also called Buddha Park.  The park is about 25 km outside of Vientiane, built along the Mekong River near the Friendship Bridge, which spans the river, connecting northern Thailand to Laos.

Traveling there was... interesting.  Tim and I hired a tuk-tuk for the journey.  Half the trip was on wide, dusty but paved roads, while the second half was on unpaved, pittec and doubly dusty roads, making for a super bumpy ride.  Check out the photos and videos from the ride....  I had to go bandit style to avoid inhaling a pound of dust, while Tim was gripping on for dear life in the back, lest he get jostled right out the back of the tuk-tuk:

Once at the park, we entered an eccentric riverside theme park full of over 200 concrete Buddhist and Hindu statues of humans, gods, demons, and animals:

Although the statues look weathered and ancient, apparently the park was only built in 1958. The park's designer was a mystic/priest/shaman who later fled to Thailand where he built a similar park, just across the river.

The park has a large (390 feet long) reclining Buddha:

The statues are pretty trippy throughout, and some look like they are telling a story:

This one looks like a hunger strike of some sort?:


Stop the violence:

This headdress is quite an elaborate mosaic:

Tim laments that he only has 2 arms:

Three headed elephant, anyone?

So many crazy sculptures:

Nice skull hat, buddy:

The piece de resistance, though, is the large pumpkin-shaped temple from which a strange tree is sprouting.

You enter the pumpkin through a large demon head in the front, crouching down to get through the tight space:

Once inside you can take 2 routes to get to the top- super steep stairs on the outer ring or the claustrophobia-inducing trip up the 3 stories through the center of the pumpkin, which Tim did.  In the center, you ascend from the hell level, through the earth level, and end up on the heaven level:

Finally, when you reach the top, you have a great aerial view of the whole park in all of its bizarreness, but you are also frying in the hot sun:

Tim descends from the top through the center route:

A strange, but interesting place, that's for sure.

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