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Day 3: Vientiane

Buddha Park and Great Food

So I was giggling about the hotel staff wearing ‘winter clothes’ when it’s 20+ degrees celcius outside yesterday, but I forgot to mention that I also saw a monk donning a beanie (head warmer) while riding pillion (passenger) on a motorcycle. That was amusing! As was seeing a local man casually reclining in between two suspended metal chains, the border around the main fountain, as if it were a hammock!

Today, I was wearing a summer scarf to perturb the hot summer rays as unfortunately, even with sunblock, I got sunburnt yesterday. I think I need to take up the monks’ great idea of using umbrellas as sun visors. Almost every monk I’ve seen around town has an umbrella in hand or has one already opened up providing shelter from the sun. They truly are wise men.

Today’s main event was Buddha Park. It’s a fair way out of town and the best & cheapest way to get there is by taking the public bus from the main bus terminal behind Talat Sao (the morning market). This is a great experience being bundled up with the locals or Thai people (going to the Friendship Bridge). It’s entertaining to see how many packages and people they try to cram into these mini-buses and watch the interactions between the passengers. Noticeably, it’d be 3 to a seat for women, but men wouldn’t squish up to let their fellow man sit. Also noticeable is that women and men sat separately. Monks sat with the men too. The majority alight at the friendship bridge, so here after you have your breathing space back, the road soon gets bumpy. The road is currently under construction so it makes for an interesting last leg of the 1 hour trip there.

Buddha Park is a weird place. The statues are eccentric and strange. Not as many Buddha’s as I was expecting! More inventions of Vishna and other Indian deities were dotted about the park. The pinnacle is a spherical sculpture that you can climb to the top for a view of the park. The interior of the sphere on each level (bar the top) is filled with statues in the core (you walk around the perimeter). Only on one floor there is a door to see them more closely. Going through this park was like attending a contemporary art exhibition. I didn’t get it. There were very few explanations as to what the statues were or represented. However, they were impressive in size and in the details. Also, there were more tourists there than I had seen at other sites in previous days. Worth noting is the restaurant at the back making fresh food and has a free toilet!

Over the last few days, I’ve been hunting down sustainable practices or tourism locations. I have to say that I feel like I spent more time looking for them than finding them. Some have move or have inaccurate location descriptions and some I probably should have looked online first for their most recent location.

Good news is that there is a lot of sustainable practices going on here. I’ve been impressed. What I haven’t been impressed with is the price tag they’ve been putting on these sustainable products. I’m undecided as to whether it’s worth it. Does the real cost of labour and materials validate prices, which supports a decent living for Laotians, higher than what I would pay for the same product in developed countries? It’s hard to know how much of your money spent at this sustainable/fair trade places is going back to the producer – no matter what the shop purports, it’s hard to know the truth and believe that the price is right. As much as I want to support sustainable practices, I need to rethink on a few shops before I pull my purse out.

My favourite positive examples so far are:

1. Solar powered hot water at the hotel, with electricity only switching on when the key is inserted (ie so only when you’re in the room). So simple, why don’t more places do it?!
2. MAG – who employ & train local people to identify UXO (unexploded ordinance) and remove the UXO from harm.

I think Vientiane would be a great place to live; it’s abundant in great places to eat and relax (from interesting cafes to parks). For an active tourist who wants to see a great many historical sites or museums, I’m not sure this would be the place. There’s certainly plenty to see and absorb, but there are no Met museums or National Galleries here that can rival those of the West. Vientiane has much more to offer culturally by seeing, breathing and living the life here – even if it is just for a few days.

Walking around town, I noticed that the ratio of vehicles & motorcycles to pedestrians was far in favour of the machines than people. To cross some roads you have to be pretty careful when you step out to cross the street!

In the morning, you can see women roaming the streets wearing the old-fashioned conical bamboo hats, carrying weighty produce strung in bamboo baskets from a bamboo cane, which is purposefully sitting on their shoulder. Many people I pass will offer a Sa-bai-dee (hello) and/or a smile. Here, at the Indochina Antiques café, I’ve been sitting here undisturbed for an hour, when all I ordered is one drink. This place is very cool for anyone that likes interesting cafes with fascinating décor and cabinets full of trinkets and artefacts lining the walls. On that note, it’s time for more good food – there are just too many restaurants and not enough meals for me to try them all!

Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos

Buddha Park, Vientiane, Laos

Posted by Teamworkz 03:19 Archived in Laos Tagged park laos vientiane buddha

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