Monday, March 30, 2015

Baguettes and Buddhas in Vientiane

I was actually rather proud of myself in Vientiane. Everywhere you went tuktuk drivers offered to take you to the Buddha park for 120,000kip, which okay fine, is like $15, but I was getting tired of a hand being out for more and more money around every corner, so I walked into oncoming traffic and flagged down a local bus, just like the locals do (bus stops, if you can locate them, are never actually used here), and rode to the park for 6,000kip, and repeated the exercise on the way back. The park itself isn't really a religious site, except for the fact that it's full of religious things get fuzzy in terms of what it is and what it isn't. Basically though a guy started collecting pieces and assembling them all in this park as a tribute or a way to preserve his own memory. In any case, having this many icons, Buddhas, gods and monsters makes for a quirky little spot to visit.  

This one was so insanely lifelike that it felt like it used to be a real person who 
was turned to stone and is slowly being chipped away by time. 
It even looks like he's following you with his eyes. Creepy!!!

There's a statue of a giant pumpkin with a screaming mouth that you can climb
into and then on top of to get an aerial view of the park. The pumpkin contains
three levels inside, each full of more statues to explore.  

The city itself was much more walkable then I expected. There were crafty shops filled with handiwork of local artisans and cafes with decent coffee, croissants and baguettes, showing off the French influences. I do have to say that while the baguettes were outstanding, the croissants are not as good as those in France, but then again I can't imagine this heat and humidity is a good climate for that delicate process. There was a busy night market on the edge of town full of souvenirs and smoothie stands, and there's a long main road that leads to a structure reminiscent of the Arc de Triumphe, but as the plaque inside states, this one was never completed and isn't as graceful or beautiful as the original. Still, droves of tourists flock to it and the fountain in front of it for selfies and group shots offered by helpful photographers making extra money in the park.

I was really tempted to ring the gong...but restraint and decorum 
were my mantras for the day and I was good. 

This structure was kind of hidden away and doesn't look like much, but has two 
things going for it. For one, it's called That Dam, which to me is hilarious. 
Also, it has a great story, as the locals believe that this stupa was once home to 
a seven-headed dragon (now conveniently dormant) who protected the city from
the Siamese, but sadly it seems that it also used to be covered in gold...and the
dragon wasn't enough to preserve that during the looting by the Siamese
army back in 1828. 

This shop is filled with crafts made by women from abused backgrounds and
all profits go to getting them back on their feet. Plus, that's a cute dragon stuffie.

Because Soap Nuts!!! I can't explain my excitement. 

There are many beautiful Wats all around the city, so I just wandered around the 
streets as the similar decor and styles blurred in my mind. 

Oh, I also had dinner at a hidden, out of the way Indian restaurant, which was pretty tasty, but the owner was so excited to have a visitor that after asking me for a photo, ended up shooting an entire video of me eating, which he then posted on Youtube. And no, I'm not sharing that link with you. 

1 comment:

  1. I bet you made that place a tourist sensation overnight!