Visits in Vientiane

Buddha Park, Vientiane

Our last destination in Laos was the capital, Vientiane, where we were meeting our friend Rachel for a short visit. We took the bus from Vang Vieng (which left on Laos time, meaning about an hour late) and arrived in the city at dusk. Vientiane is a small capital, with a population of just over 200,000 people. Still, it felt pretty big after some of the smaller places we’d been recently.

We hopped in a tuk-tuk from the bus station and went in search of Rachel’s guesthouse. When we found it, she was waiting for us with refreshingly cold Beer Lao at the ready. It was so great to see a friendly face from back home! We only had one day to hang out before Rachel had to carry on to Bangladesh, so we made the most of it.

Where did they go?

The first thing we did was head out of town on a local bus to visit Buddha Park. This park is near the river, and was built by a man who decided to blend Hindu and Buddhist religions together, and built this park as a tribute to all of the deities of each. The small patch of land was chock full of concrete statues, including a huge reclining Buddha. Even some of the smaller statues were life-size. They made great camouflage.

Indiana Jones in real life

The most bizarre thing in the park was a giant sphere with a concrete tree on top of it and an entrance in the base. We could see that people were sitting on top of the sphere, under the tree. We figured that there must be stairs up through the inside. We didn’t figure on the inside of the sphere being one of the creepiest, most bizarre things we’d seen so far. It was divided into several floors, connected by claustrophobically tight concrete staircases climbing up through tiny openings in the floors. Each floor was lit dimly by a single light bulb and traces of light from outside, and was full of more concrete statues in various states of torture and ecstasy. Everything was laced with dust and cobwebs. It felt as if we’d stepped straight into an Indiana Jones movie. Very strange.

After creeping ourselves out at the Buddha park, we headed back into town for some refueling. After a very satisfying lunch and a couple of cold Beer Lao, we treated ourselves to an hour-and-a-half long herbal massage. Ahhhhhh. And the massage only cost about $8 each.

Visit to COPE

Feeling refreshed, we took a tuk-tuk out to visit the COPE center in Vientiane, where we learned some Lao history that we were very ignorant of. Did you know that Laos is the most heavily bombed country in the world? During the Vietnam war, the US dropped over 260 million bombs on Laos, many of which were cluster bombs containing hundreds of individual explosives each. Over 30% of these bombs failed to detonate, and the rural countryside of Laos is still littered with them. They are still detonating to this day, killing and injuring the people of Laos. COPE is an organization that provides prosthetic limbs and training for people injured by these bombs. It was sobering to learn this dark part of Lao history, and inspiring to see the work that COPE is doing to help those affected by it.

We finished our day by having dinner with Rachel and some of the people that she had been working with in Vientiane during her trip. We ended up getting some very helpful consultation and advice from the doctors in the group, and they even donated a whole bag of first aid stuff to us (Thanks Jill and Lorraine). It was a short but sweet visit, and it was so great to see Rachel, even if it was only for one day. Safe onward travels Rachel!
Meg, Rachel, and muscles

Comments

    Oh Sanjay… your muscles are so huge! I bet Meg went back to Taj Mahal and kidnapped the poster, didn’t she?!

    Have a fabulous time with Team Bravis you two! It was so great that we were able to meet up even if just for a day. Go Canada Go!

    Dear Philip,1st. of all a very big THANK YOU for releasing my conmemt (above) at all and so quickly. But this caused also a little problem for me. So maybe it is interesting to you that I do sometimes distributing reports of FCO-Bloggers amongst the British Community here in Stuttgart, Wuerttemberg, which is simply called British Empire Group . My real intention is of course clear: I b4m only an Anglo- or better Welsh- German, but most of the others are British. So I just wanna do a little PR for the FCO-London, but also PR for those Ambassadors who are writing really excellent reports. (I.e. James Watt,Cairo/Egypt or his follower, Peter Millet, Amman / Jordan.) So I also sent yr. report to some students of these Community Group. It b4s also logical, that some of them asking me about the Hows and whyb4s . In yr. case: WHY a new Brutush Embassy in Vientiane/Laos. This is simply to explain. But they also asked Why is Laos also called THE THREE ELEPHANT state. For I only do know that they are using an elephant sometimes as a kind of a NATIONAL -SYMBOL. So well I do hope that I b4m not disturbing you but could you explain it to me. (..if you should find a little time, for it b4s not so urgently )For I know that some of this British-Study Group wants to travel in Dec.b412 and Jan. b413 to the entire INDOCHINA Area, but with Laos included. So I b4m just looking forward with the hope of hearing and reading some news of you and esp. more excellent reports like this 1st. one.BW, Ingo-Steven Wais, Stuttgart/Wuerttemberg.

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