Visiting Xieng Khuan – The Strange Sculpture Garden On Mekong River

Lao is the only landlocked country in Southeast Asia; in return, the Mother Nature gives people here pristine forests and a gentle Mekong River. Especially are giant ancient Buddhist statues dotted around a Mekong Riverside meadow as if they are telling religious stories.

Buddha Park (also called Wat Xieng Khuan) is a famous sculpture garden with more than 200 reinforced concrete religious statues of Lao. Situated in about 25km South East from downtown Vientiane on the bank of Mekong River, Buddha Park is a mystery destination that any tourist wants to discover when coming to Lao. With 20 minutes on tuk-tuk ride, tourists can see Buddha Park and then enter the spiritual land. The park was built in 1958 by Luang Pu Bunleua Suliat - a priest-shaman, who integrated Hinduism and Buddhism with his students. After the Communist occupation, he moved from Lao to Thailand, where he created the similar sculpture park on the other side of Mekong River named Sala Keoku. Some sculptures were built with the help of benefactors, whose name was engraved on the base of structures. Buddha Park is the home to many wonderful and bizarre Hindu and Buddhist sculptures in varying sizes and figures like animals, demons and gods from both beliefs. In fact, the tallest structure in Buddha Park can be seen from the similar park on the Thai side of Mekong River. As time goes by, sculptures are covered by moss, which makes them change every day and more mysterious. A combination of Hindu and Buddha creates a space that is not only sacred but also restful.

Visiting here, tourist can’t miss Pumpkin tower, the most striking and magnificent structure of Buddha Park. This mysterious statue definitely leaves you fantastic experiences. It is a strange edifice that resembles a huge pumpkin with a dead tree sprouting from its crown. At the front of the sculpture is a 3 meters entrance. It resembles a demon’s mouth with stone ladders leading to the roof of the building, where has the view of the entire Buddha Park. The structure is composed of 3 religious levels: Hell, Earth, and Heaven. Each level has elaborate sculptures representing scenes of each region and simply decorated.

The largest sculpture on Buddha Park is an enormous 40-meter-long reclining Buddha. Nowadays it is used as a temple. In front of this huge structure is a small chapel, where the faithful can worship and pray for goodness. There are also many unique sculptures in Buddha Park which keep secrets and specialties of life such as a sculpture of Indra, the king of Hindu’s god. He is riding a three-headed elephant. It has special meaning in Buddhism and especially in Lao, the land of million elephants. Or a statue of Shiva with 8 arms full of weaponry, a four-arm god sitting on the horse, a god with 12 faces and many hands holding interesting objects. Traveling to Buddha Park, tourist will have quiet minutes to contemplate the past, future and present. After a long day discovering Buddha Park, tourists can take a rest at some Riverside cafés or restaurants and taste some popular dishes like papaya salad, fried bananas and Lao beer or buy souvenirs for family and friends.