Wanderlustress

Life in Laos through the lens of a diplomatic wife raising twin toddlers.

Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)

In addition to tennis lessons, another outing I organized for the kids during their school break this week was a 1/2 day visit to Buddha Park, better known in Lao as “Xieng Khuan” (not to be mistaken with Xiangkhouang, a province known for the famous Plain of Jars). I had seen photos of the Hindu and Buddhists sculptures there and it looked like a cool place to visit with the kids since the park grounds provide green open spaces for them to run around in. I also wanted to give them a different environment to play in aside from the typical playground structures we’d been going to each day.

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No, taking the kids to this park was not at all a nightmare inducing experience.

Boy was it different! Spooky in fact. While some figures were lovely and serene, others were monstrous and ghoulish. Seeing all of them together gave me the immediate impression of a dream in which you’re not exactly frightened yet you want to wake up because of the potential for it to turn into a nightmare – NOT exactly the kind of feeling you would purposely induce in your two-year old children. When we pulled up to the park, I had one of those “What-have-I-done-?” parenting moments of extreme self doubt. But there we were and there was nothing else to do except get out of the car.

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Our little tour guide doesn’t exactly know the meaning of cultural preservation as he clambered up nearly every statue…also a tough lesson for M&O to not follow suit.

The kids held on to their stuffed bear and baby-doll really tight and reluctantly started to explore. My daughter at first asked, “Where’s the playground mommy?” Then luckily, a little boy of what I guess to be about six or seven years old appeared out of nowhere – a sprightly, talkative, animated child who M&O warmed up to immediately. He delighted them by clambering onto the statues, or climbing trees, and talking to them in excited fast-paced Lao about every figurine. He even demonstrated a Buddhist offering by kneeling down and  motioning the traditional cupped hands to the head then to the ground three times, albeit using some pilfered flowers from another statue for demonstration. This prompted M to give the same customary “nop” to the statue, too – a sight that makes me so proud every time I see her do it to friends and strangers when greeting them. It makes me happy that both of my kids will have at least two years of exposure to a culture very closely related to Thai since I had lost all connection to it while growing up in the US. I just hope that the child’s play here with their friend will ward off the possibility of scary dreams in the middle of the night. We shall see.

"Why can't I climb up there, too, mommy?"

“Why can’t I climb up there, too, mommy?”

He might have told them that this was a giant toddler eating crocodile so I'm glad they don't fully understand Lao yet!

He might have told them that this was a giant toddler eating crocodile so I’m glad they don’t fully understand Lao yet!

    Putting flowers as offerings on the ground, next to, and on top of a statue.

Putting flowers as offerings on the ground, next to, and on top of a statue.

I am so proud of this girl who is quick with her nop now everywhere she goes.

I am so proud of this girl who is quick with her nop now everywhere she goes.

Why would I go inside a scary giant mouth mommy if you won't come with me?

Why would I go inside a scary giant mouth mommy if you won’t come with me?

The last 6km of road before reaching the park.

The last 6km of road before reaching the park.

Buddha Park is about 25km southeast of Vientiane and best reached by car or bus. Some guidebooks say you can get there via Tuk Tuk or Jambo but the last 6km is a dusty bumpy dirt road that is corrugated by all the heavy trucks that haul sand and rocks dredged from the Mekong River into Vientiane for the many construction projects and I’m told that Tuk Tuk and Jambo drivers won’t even agree to drive all the way there anymore. You an easily spend 1/2-hr or more walking around looking at all the statues, even longer if you are into photography. There are shady areas with picnic tables and a small gift shop and some snacks for sale but I didn’t see much in the way of a substantial so you should you pack your own lunch if needed. The entry fee for each adult is 5,000 kip (.63 cents) plus a 3,000 kip fee for taking pictures. For some reason the 3,000 kip parking fee was waived for the vehicle I came in.

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11 comments on “Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan)

  1. Pingback: Buddha Park (Xieng Khuan) « Sherry's Space

  2. Ruth
    September 12, 2012

    All the children look so cute! It’s interesting how kids can play together readily even though they don’t speak each other’s language 🙂 Enjoy your adventures in Laos!

  3. Maureen | TatterScoops
    September 10, 2012

    Awww what an awesome experience for your kids. How lucky they are to experience this cultural place. The pictures looks so adorable. Laos is on my travel bucket list too 😀 Thank you for sharing this.

  4. humanrightswarrior
    September 9, 2012

    Absolutely gorgeous! I’m adding this park to my list of travel destinations. Thank you!

  5. wow! what an amazing place but I totally get your “ops. what-have-I-done?” moment. It is great, thought that you expose your kids to such a different “art”. many mothers I know off would simply turn back taking their kids as far as it’s possible from this place.

  6. Galit Breen (@GalitBreen)
    September 8, 2012

    Oh this is stunning!

    Beautiful and magical, and you captured it all!

    Absolutely love it!

  7. Alison
    September 8, 2012

    That’s so cool! Though yes, some of the figures ARE pretty scary. Love that you are introducing such interesting local things to your children.

  8. ladyofthezoos
    September 1, 2012

    Wow! I had not idea this place existed and it’s fantastic. Even as an adult I would love to visit! THanks for sharing!

  9. Lisaman
    August 30, 2012

    What an interesting park!! I’d never heard of it before!!

  10. Dani
    August 30, 2012

    I love love love these photos!! What a creative and fun idea and it looks like the kids had so much fun. M’s nop is sooo cute and so sweet! I would be so proud too!

  11. travelerlynne
    August 30, 2012

    What a great place to visit. Your little tour guide had M & O’s attention. I am always amazed at the extra fees added on for taking pictures. ( I left an nomination for you in you About section.) Looking forward to more outings with the kids.

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