Thursday, December 2, 2010

The Buddha Park - December 2nd, 2010

Buddha Park

Yesterday was a national holiday here in Laos.

Of all my students, more than 100 of them, only one was able to correctly identify for me the significance of December 2nd.

But who cares? As long as there’s BeerLao in plenty and electricity to fire up those speakers then all is well!

We took the day and got on our motorbikes with the kids down to the Buddha Park, 25 clicks south-east of the city along the Mekong River.

The wonderful thing about the road is that at some points it actually does hug the river and you can see Thailand just across the way. The ride down is also interesting because it was the first road we took in Laos in 2001 when we arrived here in East of Eden ( In those days, the road was little more than a dirt path with a few restaurants on either side of it, chickens crossing the road to get to the other side and a few dogs sitting out the summer in the shade of a dusty tree.

Now it is a four lane highway in perfect condition. Sorry to have to say it, but the road to the Friendship Bridge, and most of the paved roads in Vientiane, are in much better shape than the Toronto road system.

Immigration at the Friendship Bridge is now in a sparkling new complex: when we first came here Immigration was in a little hut!

Of course, once you pass the bridge, the road starts to look like the Laos we love again: potholes, piles of gravel, clouds of dust thrown up by other vehicles…

The Buddha Park:

Some countries are home to crazy people who decide to do something so architecturally daring that they eventually become legends. In France, there was the Facteur Cheval, a postman who collected stones along his route for years and eventually built this:

And in India, of all places in Chandigarh, some guy had pretty much the same idea:

Well, the Buddha Park here in Laos was built by some crazy monk back in the 50’s when the country was still a monarchy. You can get the details easily enough.

The statues in the park are not only of Buddha, there are many Hindu gods and a huge pumpkin you can climb in that represents the universe. In the basement is hell.

Look, I have to be honest, the whole thing is really ugly and in bad taste. But it’s a fun day trip.

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