January 28, 2009:
Since we’d gotten a couple things checked off our to-see list the evening before we were able to sleep in on our one full day in Vientiane. We headed off to Talat Sao bus station around 11am to find a bus to Buddha Park. Our guide book said you could catch a bus there, but not which route to take. When we got to the bus stop it was a bit overwhelming to see all the buses and signs with only the top line “bus to town” in English and the rest in Lao. We bought a water bottle and asked the salesperson if he knew which bus we should take, but he didn’t know. We wandered around searching for a sign we could read, with a tuk tuk driver following us and lowering his price as we kept refusing. It would have been simpler to take a tuk tuk for $6 round trip, but we wanted to take the more adventurous and cheaper public transportation. Fortunately, we found another foreign tourist couple whose guide book said that bus route 14 goes to Buddha park. We thanked them asked the driver if he went to Xieng Khuan and then got on and waited for the bus to fill up. The ride to the park takes about an hour, and there’s no air conditioning, just windows to open. We weren’t sure where exactly we were going, since the park wasn’t on our maps and we didn’t know quite what it would look like. After about 50 minutes the bus entered a gate with a sign for “Friendship Bridge,” and I thought, “oh, no, what if we end up in Thailand?” But there was no need to worry, the bus stopped briefly to let passengers off who were getting on another bus to cross the Mekong River to Thailand. We kept going for about another 10 minutes and we saw the park and got off as another passenger did.
The statues in Buddha Park were a private collection built by a monk in the fifties in an artistic effort to unify Buddhism and Hinduism. I’d pictured a green grassy park, and maybe during the rainy season it is, but this time of year it was dry and hot! After looking through half the park we had to take a break at the restaurant next to it for a coke and a coconut drink. Then we wandered through the rest of the park and just as we were leaving George noticed a bus waiting on the street, so we ran the rest of the way and caught the bus back to the city. We lucked out with that one! We were ready to hire a tuk tuk for the return ride if it came down to it, but we managed to take the bus both directions.
I’m in this photo so you can get an idea of how enormous this statue is.
Here’s a photo of the whole statue:
I’m the little person at the foot of the tree.