Buddha Park gets a facelift for Lao tourism year

Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

If you would like to enjoy wandering through an intriguing sculptural representation of ‘hell’, ‘earth’ and ‘heaven’, look no further than the ‘City of Spirits’ or Xiengkhuan Buddha Park on the outskirts of Vientiane.

Visitors walk along the new path, while some enjoy climbing to the top of the dome.

One of the many enigmatic structures in the park, and one of the first you will encounter, is a three-story spherical building that visitors enter through the gaping mouth of a demon. You then climb staircases from ‘hell’ to ‘earth’, eventually emerging at ‘heaven’ on top of the dome for a spectacular view and a chance to take great photos of more than 200 statues representing Buddhist and Hindu figures.
Buddha Park was put together in 1958 by a priest-shaman named Bounleua Soulilath. Although the enormous stone statues appear centuries old and are extremely photogenic, most were actually constructed in place rather than transported to the park.
Today, the park is undergoing renovation by a new concession holder to make it even more appealing during Visit Laos Year 2018.
Reconstruction of the park began in August 2017. The first phase is  now about 50 percent complete and is expected to be finished by Pi Mai Lao (Lao New Year) in April.
A new paved pathway is being built, a variety of colourful flowers are being planted and 18 latrines are being installed. A metre-high wall will separate the restaurant, gift shop and the main park where the statues are situated. There will also be a grassy area and a children’s playground.
Along the wall will be 60 Buddha images which it is envisaged devotees will come to worship on religious occasions.
The area around the restaurant behind the park will be extended to give visitors an expansive view of the Mekong while they enjoy a meal.
The concessionaire who is making the changes to the park, Ms Soysouda Inmeuangxay, said the whole development is expected to take five years.
“This development is an investment by our company,” said Ms Soysouda, who is President of the Tourism and International Investment Company.
The company has invested about 40 billion kip in the project and has been given a 30-year concession to restructure the 21,000-square-metre site. 
Ms Soysouda said the improvements will make the park more appealing to tourists and provide better facilities. Some 22 closed-circuit television cameras will also be installed.
The number of people visiting the park is increasing, she said. The management is recording visitor numbers of about 800 people per day - an increase of 40 percent compared to the same period last year.
Most visitors come from the Republic of Korea, China, Vietnam, France, Thailand and Laos. The park charges 10,000 kip for Lao citizens and 15,000 kip for foreigners, with children admitted free of charge. The park is open from 8am to 5pm every day.
How to get to Buddha Park
Xiengkhuan Buddha Park is 24 km from the centre of Vientiane, on Thadeua Road, just east of the Friendship Bridge connecting Laos to Thailand.
The easiest way to get to there is simply to arrange transport for the day. It’s not necessary to book a tour through an agency or your guesthouse, just approach a tuk-tuk directly and haggle for the best round-trip price. The outcome will depend on the driver’s temperament and your negotiating skills.
To enhance the adventure and save a little money, you can make your own way to Buddha Park by catching a bus from the Talat Sao bus terminal.

By Times Reporters
(Latest Update February 15, 2018)

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