Wednesday, December 1, 2010

outsider art outside Vientiane: Buddha Park

Buddha Park is this phantasmagorical, bizarre wonderland of statues depicting both Buddhist and Hindu iconography (and maybe other stuff you know which religious system(s) revere mermaids?). It's about 25km from Vientiane, and the mini-bus we took was only slightly faster than walking. I wasn't always certain we were going to make it, and on the way back, it seemed like there was an awful lot of heat coming from the engine under the driver's seat. Much of the trip was on a seriously potholed dirt road, and we definitely could've walked faster and been more comfortable. But that's ok, it was another experience of transportation in SE Asia. So, the park. This dude built it in 1958, but it looks a lot older than that. The statues are very large -- some are giant -- and they're made of cement and cement-covered bricks. I kept thinking that if only I knew the iconography, there might be giant cosmic jokes being told. As it was, I could only wonder, and gape in wonder.

such a busy crowd, like being at a statue party of weirdness

lots of dominion over things - here, triumph over a pile of skulls. :) Ganesha.

me being eaten by a crocodile
Marc and the ladies

again, Marc and a lady, plus a really giant snake.

mermaid? really?

monks crawling around the top of .....

this giant thing, which is supposed to represent hell, earth, and heaven or something like that.

Here's the mouth - you crouch and go inside, and I guess there are stairs inside or something.
I was just thinking of miniature golf with this one. Can you just imagine that? Putt-putting a golf ball into the mouth? It would fit the park, no kidding.
and this GIANT reclining Buddha - see him in context in the top photo. Giant.
So that was a very interesting trip. Trippy. Funny. Weird. Not like anywhere else, that's for sure! Every place we've been has been quite different from every other town, but now we return to the familiarity of Phnom Penh, tomorrow. Still, we'll be staying in a very different hotel, and we have plans to go to a wonderful restaurant tomorrow night. It'll be so interesting to see what it's like in Phnom Penh without all the Water Festival crowds....and what it'll be like after the tragedy of the Water Festival, too.

This is our last night in Laos, and it's hard to say what Laos is like. Is it like Luang Prabang? Or Vientiane? Or something else entirely - you can't tell what a country is like based on two places. We've both had such a hard time remembering where we are, while we've been in Laos. When we were in Luang Prabang, I kept thinking I was in Tibet. (WHY?!! That makes no sense. Nothing about it was like Tibet. Nothing. Buddhists sure, but very different Buddhists.) Now and then I was thinking we were in Borneo. Again, why. That's so weird. Being in Vientiane has been just a generic experience - Anywhere Asia. I don't know why it's been so hard to hold Lao in my mind; maybe it's because I didn't have an idea of Laos before I came, no template in my mind for it. With Cambodia, for better or worse there's Pol Pot and Killing Fields, at least it's something for an unworldly person like me to hold on to. With Laos, I knew of the Hmong and their arts - part of my understanding since the late 1970s - but somehow I just didn't/don't have a "LAOS" idea in my head. I think I'll hang on to Luang Prabang as my idea of Laos.

So now, we're going back to the banks of the Mekong for one last night of amazing and cheap food. I'll probably have one last Beerlao for the road. Ciao Lao.

1 comment:

  1. Lori and Marc - hello and thank you for all the great posts, so interesting and enjoyable to read and absorb. Touched at your aversion to the tourists' breakage of unwritten rules in search of every possible snapshot (we in the U.K. are haunted by the repellent concept of "the Brits abroad"). And in your quest to find delicious and authentic foods, eshewing the bland hybrid, then to be offered corporate orange drink! Loving the detail, of transport, drivers, hotels. Fascinating too, the search to find and define the Laos identity. As you say, Cambodia has a horrid resonance for us (of a certain generation, from 'the west') but Laos falls between - I don't know, but seems like a failure yet to find out who/what it is. I certainly have a better insight into this area of the globe thanks to your travelogue, and find your writing style compelling and beautiful.
    Best wishes
    pamela xxx


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