July 4, 2015

Laos : Visiting Vientiane

Continuation from here..

Met my colleague cum travel partner at the hostel. We were supposed to start the trip together from Bangkok but her family objected the idea due to the Bangkok Shutdown. So she flew straight to Vientiane.

Without wasting time, we went out and walked around.

This is a temple nearby our hostel, Wat Inpeng. Built in the 16th century, the temple was destroyed in 1827 during the invasion by the Siamese who destroyed most of the town. The temple today has been rebuilt and renovated several times.

The carvings and the colorful murals are quite beautiful.

Wat Inpeng is open daily from 8 am to 6 pm
Entrance is free

The weather was rather hot so we were hesitant to get a bicycle. After some negotiation with a tuk-tuk driver, we then rent a tuk-tuk for 100,000 Kip to travel around the city.

Saw this building while on our way to Buddha Park. I think it's a hotel.

Buddha Park or Xieng Khuan is a sculpture park 25 km from the capital. It isn't a temple but it does contain over 200 Buddha and Hindu statues created in 1958 by monk Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat who studied both religions.

One notable sculpture in the park is this giant pumpkin where you can enter it through a demon's mouth. Inside is a three stories that represent hell, earth and heaven. Climb to the top to get a view over the entire park.

the demon's mouth

 walkway inside the pumpkin

 one of the level inside the pumpkin

 view from the top

The other major sculpture is the 40m long reclining Buddha.

Some of the other sculptures...

Buddha Park is open daily from 8 am to 4.30 pm
Entrance fee is 5,000 Kip, camera fee is 3,000 Kip

The park is actually quite near to the Friendship Bridge border crossing to Thailand so you could visit on your way to/from Thailand. I didn't know about this earlier, could've come here straight from Thanaleng station. But it's OK, I have to meet my friend at the hostel anyway.

Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge

Next, we visited Phra That Luang or the Great Stupa. This is the most important Buddhist monument in Laos. First built in the year 1566, the stupa has undergone several reconstructions until the 1930s due to foreign invasions to the area.

unrestored remains of sculptures 

The golden color you see is not painting but it is literally covered in gold. The stupa is covered with thousand pounds of gold leaf, precious metal that achieves such impressive golden color, symbol of the splendour of Laos.

The large grounds surrounding the golden stupa contain several other Buddhist structures.

 Wat That Luang Neua

 Statue of King Setthathirath, the founder of the monument

Hor Dhammasabha or Buddhist convention hall

Phra That Luang is open daily from 8 am - 12 pm, and 1 pm to 4 pm
Entrance fee to the golden stupa is 5,000 Kip, surrounding buildings and temples are free

Do you know that Laos is the most bombed country per capita in the world? The country is still suffering the effects of the horrific bombings during the Civil War. It has been reported that over 2 million tons of bombs were dropped on Laos between 1965 and 1975 and some 30% of it failed to explode. Meaning, even till now, the country is still littered with these unexploded ordnance (known as UXO). 

Our tuk-tuk driver then drove us to COPE Visitor Center, a small museum about the UXO problem in Laos and the work undertaken by COPE (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise) to provide disability services for people affected by the UXOs.  

one type of cluster bomb

COPE Visitor Center is open daily from 9 am - 6 pm
Entrance is free but donation is recommended

The museum is very informative. I didn't know anything about the war, the UXO etc before I visited the center but I definitely learnt a lot there. Totally worth visiting! 

Other attractions in the city..

National Culture Hall

 statue of King Setthathirath watching over the Mekong

Done with the visits, we asked the tuk-tuk driver to drop us off at the Mekong Riverfront, a large park fronting the river. At the west end of the park is the Vientiane night market where you can buy souvenirs. 

My personal opinion, there isn't much to see in Vientiane. You can cover all the main attractions in one or two days so we got ourselves bus tickets to Vang Vieng tomorrow. 

Next read : Vang Vieng

No comments: