Buddha Park (Wat Xieng Khuan)
What we say:
Though the locals call it Wat Xieng Khuan, this attraction 25 km outside the city limits it not a temple but an outdoor collection of religiously-inspired statuary.
The huge images were built in the 1950s by Lao mystic Luang Pu Bunleae Sulilat who hoped to unite the Buddhist and Hindu faiths with his art.
The grounds are peaceful and well-manicured, and the combination of the lush foliage, riverbank scenery and bizarre statues make for great photos. Some of the pieces are so large that it's hard to do them justice with a picture. This is particularly true of the 50 metre-long reclining Buddha, so most visitors climb on top of it for a photo opportunity and a scale reference. Another highlight is a giant pumpkin with three levels representing hell, earth and heaven. You can go inside via a demon's mouth and ascend the narrow staircase all the way to heaven (the top) for a good viewpoint of the park.
There are more than 200 sculptures in the park but very little information in English about what they represent. If you're interested in learning more about the mythology, the monks who hang around the park are usually happy to educate tourists and often will seek you out for a chat.
Most of the sculptures face away from the Mekong, so a visit in the early morning will offer better light than the afternoon for taking photos. The park has a full range of facilities including a gift shop, restaurant, and food vendors, the latter making the spot perfect for an impromptu picnic.
The creator of Buddha Park left Laos in the 1970s and went on to create the bigger Wat Khaek sculpture garden across the border in Nong Khai. If you've visited Wat Khaek you may be a bit disappointed by Buddha Park, but otherwise it's one of Vientiane's top daytrips.
More detailsAround 25km outside Vientiane past the Friendship Bridge
Opening Hours: Daily 08:00-16:30
How to get there: Buddha Park is located about 25 km outside of Vientiane near the border with Thailand. Tuk tuk is the most convenient way to get to the park and, if you've got a couple people to split the fare with, it's not too expensive. After some determined negotiation, most tuk tuk drivers will charge around 170,000 kip for round-trip transportation including a couple hours of waiting time as you explore the park. The park is actually quite close to the Friendship Bridge so, if you're entering or exiting here and don't have too much luggage, you could combine them. There is public transportation to the park and it's quite easy to get there on local bus #14 from the station near Talat Sao Market. The fare is 8,000 kip per person and buses run from 05:50 until 17:30 and follow a loose schedule of departing every 20 minutes. Sometimes you will be required to change buses at the Friendship Bridge, but the bus driver will let you know if that's the case. Getting back is simply a matter of hopping on bus 14 as it comes back down the road and takes you right into the centre of town. If you're reasonably fit it's possible to cycle to the park as the road is sealed and quite flat most of the way. Follow the road out of Vientiane until you see the turn for the border crossing and continue along past it for another 6 km. Beautiful scenery along the river make this a rewarding ride.
Last updated: 5th November, 2013
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