The Long Wander in Laos © Sahand Sedghi

Nirvana for Under a Dollar

Vientiane, Laos


Swallowing the Moon © Sahand Images

After a couple of months in Asia, you start to get Buddha-ed out. He's everywhere. Caves, beaches, temples, street corners, bathrooms. Traveling in Asia means being saturated in the Buddha; like jumping into a pool full of Buddhas, you're swimming in them. So, seeing more Buddha sculptures may make you think, “Ehhhh.” But really it will make you say, “, that's wicked!” An utterly reverent 'wicked,' of course.

Xieng Khuan, a.k.a. Buddha Park, is one man's fusion of Hindu and Buddhist philosophy, mythology and iconography into one heck of religious sculpture playground. Buddha isn't the only deity in attendance. His friends Shiva, Vishnu, Arjuna, Avaokiteshvara and almost every other divine being are also present and caught in their most famous acts: Slaying giant spiders with human heads, swallowing the moon, carrying off fair maidens, playing with skulls, and receiving offerings from animals.

The park's visionary, Bunleua Sulilat, was incredibly creative, incredibly inspired or, possibly, just incredibly confused. The jumble of concrete sculptures could require some pretty intense recall skills from university religious survey courses. But if you're not into deciphering religious icons, just wandering around and making up your own stories is equal fun with fewer brain cramps.

By the time we to got to Sulilat's version of the reclining Buddha, we had seen enough of them to know that this one was utterly unique. With its funky facial features and finely formed fingers and toes, this Buddha made us want to contemplate…anything.

It's a 50¢ ride out of Vientiane with the locals and
50¢ for an afternoon of religious art.
One dollar and good times with God. Yeah.


In one corner is what looks like a giant onion, but is actually a view into hell. You climb the giant dome and look in from the top to see sculptures covered with cobwebs being seared and poked by demons. Also, don't miss the last sangtaow back to town.

From the Photo gallery

Click here for the Laos photo-set.