The last 10 km of the 24km journey from the bus station in Vientiane is riddled with more divots than smooth dirt road. The tuk-tuk driver capitalizes on taking a lone Westerner to Buddha Park by picking up and dripping off local Lao along the way. I don’t mind and great them with a Sabaidee as they climb into the back.
They could not make change for the 5,000 Kip entrance fee so I paid 20 Baht. People in this area easily accept US dollar, Thai Baht or Lao Kip. Upon entering the park the myriad of concrete statues are impressive. Walking around these large images the impression is that they are pretty but seem to be missing something. Nevertheless, I walked around like all the other tourists and take photos. The high noon sum makes photography difficult but not impossible. I am especially interested in the frog eating sun statue called chanthakathath because a dear friend of mine has a spiritual connection with frogs. Most of the statues are made by one man, Bunleua Suliat of Nongkhai Province.
Outside of the park in the Mekong River there was something that caught my eye. A dredging operation was in full force. Ah, here is a sign that I am more drawn to the juxtaposition of this supposed monument to a higher power and the real power in this region – the Great Mekong. Affirmation of my motivation of traveling sunk in. Travel to me is not so much about seeing this #1 tourist attraction in Vientiane but to seek to witness and learn of the ways of people and nature around the world.
Before leaving I entered the most prominent feature in the park- the Pumpkin. Within its core are depictions of hell, Earth, and heaven. Inside, the lack of weathering on the concrete gives these images a younger and more protected feel. I climbed the narrow stairs three flights up; stopping to observe the story-like scenes on each level. At the top you can look out of at the grand display of art. Ah but it seems so static.
A couple joins me at on top of this massive statue filled pumpkin and I ask if they would kindly take a photo of me. This is for my mother who is always eager to see proof that I am happy and healthy while traveling. Afterward, we stand looking out and my comment to the lady was “beautiful but doesn’t seem to have much heart”. She agreed. I said thank you and goodbye and promptly slipped. I caught myself but in was enough of a mistake to make my heart skip a beat and call my attention to the moment. Without warning the thought entered my mind “how dare you say there is no heart.”
Now I am not totally whoo whoo but I immediately apologized and reminded myself of the dangers of judgment. Who was I to say what had heart and what does not. On the way out I stopped in at the information booth and learned that the creator of this park had fallen into a cave as a child and met a hermit, Keo Ku, who became his spiritual mentor. Upon graduating as Keu Ku’s apprentice he took up concrete sculpture and this park was his way of being a devotee. In essence this was a physical manifestation of one mans spiritual journey, which was born out of his interaction with nature.