On a visa run from Bangkok in Thailand to Vientiane in Laos, we discovered the ominous and fascinating Buddha Park. It is one of the favorite tourist attractions in Vientiane of many visitors, ranking in the top 3 things to do in Vientiane on TripAdvisor. Since reading the reviews and seeing the unusual and striking photos of demon sculptures, the park was on our must-do list.
We love visiting obscure attractions, and having heard of 200 unique sculptures; we thought it would be an entertaining experience. We were not let down! Buddha Park Vientiane was one of our favorite tourist attractions we visited in Laos.
Last Updated- 4th January 2023.
What to See at Laos Buddha Park
Set in a lush meadow by the Mekong River, Buddha ParkVientiane is a fascinating sculpture park with over 200 Hindu and Buddhist statues. They are grand in size, and the details are elaborate.
Although the statues look centuries old, a priest-shaman built this eccentric park in the 1950s. There are ornate and elegant sculptures and statues (made of reinforced concrete) of Buddhas, gods, humans, and folklore characters. There are also some very surreal, macabre, and menacing sculptures of animals and demons.
Incidentally, the name in Lao, Xieng Khuan, means ‘Spirit City.’ And interestingly, the priest who built the park fled Laos during the 1975 revolution and created another sculpture park across the border in Nong Khai, Thailand. Sala Keoku has even bigger and more bizarre sculptures.
Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park) is an entertaining couple of hours. There is also a restaurant by the river to recover from the heat after walking in the park. It serves Lao cuisine. While there are many stalls at the entry selling cold drinks and light snacks, the restaurant atmosphere is more ambient. You can sit in an open pavilion made of bamboo among the sunflowers overlooking the lush meadow. The views across the Mekong River to Thailand make it a transcendent spot to drink cold BeerLao.
The Weird but Engrossing Pumpkin
Upon entry to Xieng Khuan, you will see a bizarre giant pumpkin with a vivacious spiritual tree growing from its head. You enter the pumpkin through the mouth of a demon (interpreted as the jaws of hell). You then climb through three floors as you take a strange journey through the various levels portraying hell, earth, and heaven. There are lots of statues on each level in various dramatic scene enactments. As you walk through the dark, dusty structure, some of the horrific statues make you feel like you have stepped inside a horror movie.
It is, at times, a tough, steep walk up stone ladders through claustrophobic chambers. But the feeling of being transported to a surreal world makes it worthwhile. And the panoramic views at the top over the entire park are epic!
Our Highlights at Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park)
Besides the giant pumpkin, which is a crazy depiction of life and the afterlife, there are many captivating larger-than-life monuments. Many have intricate and mysterious details carved on them.
There are characters from Hindu folklore, including the Hindu gods Vishnu, the arrow-slinging Arjuna, Shiva with his many arms full of weapons, and the graceful flute-playing Krishna.
Plus, the Hindu god Indra riding Airavata, the three-headed elephant, stands among them and other foreboding demi-gods with multiple arms and heads.
And there are Buddhas everywhere. Some sit serenely among the beautiful apsaras and praying bodhisattvas, there are reclining Buddhas, and there are a group of skeleton-thin Buddhas sitting amidst them all. However, the stand out is the giant 40-meter reclining Buddha.
Buddha Park, Laos, is 25 km outside of Vientiane, east of the Friendship Bridge, which connects Laos to Thailand. Though it is a bit of a trip from the city, if you are interested in art and sculpture, you will find it one of the most fascinating tourist attractions in Vientiane and, therefore, must include it in your Vientiane tour. Further, it enables you to get out of the city and get a glimpse of some of the semi-urban areas. We recommend you do not miss this unique and quirky tourist attraction if you are in Vientiane.
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How to Get from Vientiane to Buddha Park
How to get to Buddha Park by Bus
The local bus is the cheapest way to get to Xieng Khuan (Buddha Park). Further, it is in an air-conditioned bus. Bus No. 14 departs from Talat Sao Bus Station (Vientiane Central Bus station). It costs 12,000 Lao kip (USD 0.70) each way and stops directly in front of the park (5 minutes after Friendship Bridge.) The journey takes up to 1 hour and departs every 15 minutes. (Departure times may change.)
Bear in mind you will need to get to the local bus station. For a tuk-tuk to the bus station from the Mekong River promenade, the quote was 70,000 Lao kip (4 USD) for the two of us. As it seemed a bit high, and it was too hot and humid for the 2 km walk, we decided to rent a scooter for the day for the same price.
Firstly, a word of caution – If you are not an experienced bike rider, you should not learn here. The roads are bumpy and full of grit and potholes. The road rules are often unobeyed. We have over 20 years of motorbike experience, a motorbike license, and travel insurance, and therefore rent a bike.
The cost to hire an automatic scooter was 70,000 Lao kip (4 USD) plus a couple of dollars for petrol. It took an hour from the city center. We followed our phone’s GPS and found it was straightforward to get there. On the way, we took the scenic route along the Mekong River. Our return trip was via the more direct route on the main roads, but we found it full of traffic and didn’t enjoy the ride as much.
We always love the flexibility of touring on a bike, and we had an interesting trip on the 150 cc scooter through the semi-urban area.
For those with more money than time, or if you want to fit in as much as possible into your day, there are full-day tours in Vientiane, which include Buddha Park. They will take you to the major tourist attractions in Vientiane too.
The other benefit of taking a tour is they take the hassle out of organizing transport. Additionally, they offer your own guide and driver, which allows you to see more, as well as learn more about history and culture.
One of the tours with excellent feedback is Indochina Charm Travel (HCMC) which offers full-day tours with an English-speaking guide. Besides offering hotel pickup and drop-off, cold water, and all entrance fees, they take you to many of the best attractions in Vientiane. If your time is limited, this is the best option for you.
A tuk-tuk (a three-wheeled motorbike with a passenger cab on it) is quicker than the bus and will also save you time getting to the local bus stop. It takes only 40 minutes, and you can go and come back when you want, as they will wait for you to tour the park. Though note, the ride in the tuk-tuk is bumpy and dusty.
You may have to haggle, but expect to pay 200,000 Lao kip (USD 19). They seemed reluctant to go any lower, though we heard some people bargained down to 150,000 Lao kip (USD 9) round trip.
Tuk-tuks are cheaper and faster if there’s traffic, as they can weave in and out of traffic. However, taxis are safer and more comfortable. The cost of a round trip is approx 300,000 Lao kip (USD 28). You can ask the hotel you are staying in to call you a taxi. Agree on a fare and don’t use the meter.
Essential Information for Buddha Park, Laos
- Opening hours – 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
- Entrance fee: 40,000 Lao kip (approx USD 2.30).
- Allow an hour to 2 hours to tour the park, with extra time if you wish to stop for lunch.
- Expect to be walking around the park for at least 30 minutes.
- The climb through the pumpkin is steep and confined.
- To best enjoy the sculptures in the pumpkin, bring a torch.
- It can get pretty hot in Vientiane, so best to arrive early in the day or late in the afternoon. Bring sunscreen, a hat, and an umbrella, and drink lots of water. There are stalls that sell cold drinks.
- There are no signs to explain the sculptures. If you are very interested, visit with a guide who can explain the meanings to you. We overheard some guides, and they even knew all the folklore tales associated with the sculptures. Alternatively, there are audio guides available and booklets that describe the statues. During our visit, the audio guide was 15,000 Lao kip (approx. USD 0.90.) However, a recent visitor to the park has informed us it was not available during their visit in October 2022.
For a complete list of the best things to do in Vientiane, read next: Our Favourite Things To Do in Vientiane, Laos, Click here.
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