Buddha Park is a curious garden filled with Buddhist and Hindu sculptures on the banks of the Mekong River in Laos. It’s located 25km outside of Vientiane and close to the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
It’s easy to get “templed out” in South East Asia. Vientiane is a good case in point. The Lao capital is teeming with sites of Buddhist devotion. For weary travellers, temples all start looking the same after a while. Buddha Park on the outskirts of Vientiane offers something different than the endless temples that fill the city.
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- Buddha Park is 25km from downtown Vientiane.
- You can get there by local bus from the main bus station.
- Entrance to the park costs 5000 kip.
What is it?
Buddha Park, which also goes by the name Xieng Khuan, is a park set next to the Mekong River, approximately 25 km outside of Vientiane. Surrounded by trees, the park is filled with more than 200 religious statues, including a huge 40-metre long reclining Buddha. This is not a temple or place of worship, if anything, it is art installation in a rural setting. The park has a quiet, peaceful atmosphere that makes it worth visiting. This is a great location to wander around in the afternoon and perhaps bring a picnic to enjoy under the trees. It’s also a good place for photographers scouting for unusual subjects.
A Bit of History
The park was started in 1958 by Bunleua Sulilat, a Thai born monk who studied both Buddhism and Hinduism. His unique perspective was influenced by a Hindu rishi under whom he studied in Vietnam. The mixture of beliefs is seen in the park, which contains both Buddhist and Hindu images, as well as demons and animals from both beliefs.
After the Laos revolution in 1975, Bunleua fled to Thailand where he built another sculpture park in Nong Khai. He left Laos because his anti-Communist beliefs conflicted with the views of the Pathet Lao. After Bunleua left, the state took control of his garden and made it into a public park.
What You’ll See There
The ornate statues in Buddha Park are made of reinforced concrete and some of them are quite bizarre. What you’ll notice first is the size of some of the sculptures. There is a 40-metre long reclining Buddha statue as well as a large concrete pumpkin representing heaven, earth and hell. You can go inside the pumpkin and the view from the top will let you take in the whole park.
The park itself is about the size of two football fields and contains around 200 sculptures. The greenery makes it a nice place to stroll around even if the art and mysticism holds little attraction.
If you only have one day in Vientiane, the Buddha Park may be a little far, and a little underwhelming for the time it takes to get there. The 25km from town may not seem a great distance, but the speed of travel can easily make this an hour long journey in either direction. However, if you have the time and want to see what things look like outside the city centre, this is not a bad location. It’s easy to get to by bus, tuk-tuk or self-hired motorbike.
From the central bus station (at Talat Sao/the morning market), take bus number 14. It’s the air-conditioned green bus that goes to the Friendship Bridge. The cost is 6,000 kip. Tuk-tuks can also be hired from downtown or the Friendship Bridge. If going by bicycle or motorbike, follow Thadeua Road out of town and continue a further 7km past the Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge.
Buddha Park is open daily from 8:00 am to 6:00 pm. The site looks most most spectacular in the afternoon sun.
There aren’t a lot of options for eating near the Buddha Park and you might want to consider bringing your own food for a picnic. There is a small outdoor restaurant in the park. It’s a nice spot to relax and enjoy a view of the Mekong.
The Buddha Park is in a mostly rural area 7km east of the Thai-Lao Friendship bridge. If you’re traveling to or from Thailand, and not pressed for time, this could be a good time to visit. If you’re staying in Vientiane and renting a motorbike, you could explore the surrounding outskirts of Vientiane. Aside from a few potholes and dust, the road is in pretty good shape all the way to the Buddha Park.
Also near the Buddha Park, and just after the Friendship Bridge, is the Lao Disabled Women’s Development Centre. It’s possible to tour the Centre although you need to book visits in advance. The Centre has a website with details: http://laodisabledwomen.com/
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Photo: Buddha Park by Gustavo Jeronimo / CC BY 2.0