Renown as the most quirky park in all of Laos, Buddha Park (also known as Wat Xieng Khuan) is a sculpture park well worth a visit. The park is located 25 km southeast from Vientiane in a meadow by the Mekong River, not far past the Friendship Bridge. If travelling by motorbike, the thirty minute drive to the park is scenic on a relatively good highway; a very enjoyable leisurely drive past farmers attending to their rice fields and scattered villages.
Although it is not a temple (Wat), the park is referred to as Wat Xieng Khuan as it contains numerous religious images. The name Xieng Khuan means Spirit City. The park contains over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues.
Buddha Park is the creation of Luang Pou Bounlua Soulilat, a shaman who claimed to have been the disciple of a Hindu holy man in Vietnam and integrated Hinduism with Buddhism. He began the sculpture garden on his return to Laos in 1958. Following the revolution in 1975, Bounlua Soulilat was forced into exile across the river to Nong Khai in Thailand, where he built an even more elaborate version of his vision – Sala Keoku. Since his exile, the socialist government of Laos has operated Buddha Park as a tourist attraction and public park.
The statues are made of reinforced concrete and are ornate, and sometimes bizarre, in design.
There are Buddha images and depictions of several deities from the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon, as well as many mythical creatures. The park’s signature piece is a large flat 120 metre long reclining Buddha. However, the most unusual of the sculptures is best described as a “giant pumpkin”. It has three stories representing three levels – Hell, Earth and Heaven. Visitors can enter through an opening which is a mouth of a 3 metre tall demon head and climb staircases from hell to heaven. Kitsch but fun. Each story contains sculptures depicting the level.