Situated some 25km southeast of downtown Vientiane on the Mekong River, Xieng Khuan or the “Buddha Park”  is surely Laos’s quirkiest attraction – a tacky tourist trap to some travellers, one of the most interesting sights in Vientiane to others. This collection of massive ferro-concrete sculptures, dotted around a wide riverside meadow, was created under the direction of Luang Pou Bounleua Soulilat, a self-styled holy man who claimed to have been the disciple of a cave-dwelling Hindu hermit in Vietnam. Upon returning to Laos, Bounleua began the sculpture garden in the late 1950s as a means of spreading his philosophy of life and his ideas about the cosmos. After the revolution, Bounleua was forced to flee across the Mekong to Nong Khai, Thailand, where he established an even more elaborate version of his philosophy in concrete. Ironically, the Lao National Tourism Authority chose Bounleua’s sculptures as the symbol of their “Visit Laos Year” campaign, and posters depicting the exiled guru’s works can be seen in government offices throughout the country.

Besides the brontosaurian reclining Buddha that dominates the park, there are statues of every conceivable deity in the Hindu-Buddhist pantheon and even a handful of personalities from the old regime. Near the park’s entrance is a strange edifice that resembles a giant pumpkin with a dead tree sprouting from its crown. Entering the structure through the gaping maw of devouring time, you can explore representations of the “three planes of existence”: hell, earth and heaven. A spiral stairway leads to the roof of the building, which affords good views of the park and river.

Travel offers; book through Rough Guides

Laos features

The latest articles, galleries, quizzes and videos.

16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos

16 captivating pictures of hill tribes in Laos

Professional travel photographer Tim Draper has shot images for 24 Rough Guides guidebooks, visiting far-flung corners around the world. Here he shares some of…

26 Jan 2016 • Tim Draper insert_drive_file Article
6 special places to stay in Laos

6 special places to stay in Laos

Until the 1990s, Laos remained shut off from the outside world, and largely unknown to Western travellers. Since then, more and more visitors have come to disco…

19 Dec 2014 • Site Editor insert_drive_file Article
20 fascinating second cities

20 fascinating second cities

Barcelona, Spain It's usually the capital cities that get all the attention, but what about a country's second city? These are twenty of our favourite second c…

02 Oct 2014 • Rebecca Hallett camera_alt Gallery
View more featureschevron_right

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month

Join over 60,000 subscribers and get travel tips, competitions and more every month