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Published: November 15th 2017
A very full day today, in Vientiane, pick up at 8.30 and drop off after a drink at sunset overlooking the Mekong towards Thailand. Our guide Don, had a bit of a hiccup getting to us as the Chinese Premier is in town and many roads were blocked.
From a golden stupa and Buddha to the temple where the Emerald Buddha used to be before it was moved to Thailand, to a concrete pumpkin with three levels representing heaven, hell and middle earth, plus the Cope Centre where victims of land mines are assisted with prosthetic limbs, we’ve seen it all!
The golden Stupa has just had renovations carried out. The top part is solid gold, as is the Golden Buddha which the guide said weighs 10kgs. Very impressive.
The whole city is very clean and the traffic orderly on the wide boulevards left over from the time the French ruled Laos as part of Indo China. Baguettes are everywhere, sealed fresh in cellophane bags. We climbed 7 stories to get to the top of their equivalent of the Arch de Triomphe. In the 30 degree heat too. We were most impressed with ourselves.
Laotian women wear
Temple next door
Four panels, from right to left tell the story of the life of Buddha
beautiful pencil slim skirts, often silk, with a pattern woven into it around the bottom, and a tailored jacket to match. Even school uniforms use the same style. See the school girls we met at the top of the Arch.
School goes from 8.30 to 11.40 in the morning and 1pm to 4pm in the afternoon. Parents pay $US450 a year for fees. The government pays teachers‘ salaries. Don pays another $US60 for his 7yr old son to do an extra hour of tuition from 4 till 5 o’clock.
The Cope Centre was very sobering and inspirational at the same time. During the American War (note this is how it is referred to) a bomb was dropped every 8 minutes 24/7 for 9 years, with over 500,000 bombing raids carried out. These affected Laos because the US was trying to close down the Ho Chi Minh Trail which went through the mountains on the Lao Eastern border with Vietnam. Most of these bombs were cluster bombs containing small ‘bombies’ the size of oranges which, when exploded, sent out shrapnel over an area half the size of a football field. 10 - 20% of these didn’t explode at the
The Golden Buddha
Said to weigh 10kgs of solid gold. There an accompanying table showing who has donated gold and how much.
time so still pose a threat, 25 years later, to rural Laotians.
Twenty five kms out of town along the Mekong and passing the Thai - Laos Friendship Bridge, we came to the curious Buddha Park. Built by a very eccentric man it contains over 240 concrete statues of characters out of the life of Buddha, the largest of which is the Reclining Buddha. Here too is the pumpkin with the tree of life on top. Ian climbed up very precarious steps inside to the top. I just stayed in Middle Earth.
Wat Sisaket, Vientiane‘s oldest temple built in 1818, looked ethereal in the late afternoon light. Over 500 Buddhas are contained within the complex, some large but most small in tiny little niches in the wall. Don explained the workings of a very strange piece of equipment for lack of a better word, which had puzzled us. I thought it was a door lintel but it was always too low. It looks like a long snake on a stand. Turns out it is for worshippers to put water in one end, ie under the carved duck’s wings, which then proceeds through the snake to exit at a
hole in the snake‘s head onto a monk sitting underneath who then blesses the worshipper. I think I’ve got the right.
I was blown away by the beauty of the former royal temple, Haw Pha Kaew, of the Lao Monarchy. This is the one that previously contained the Emerald Buddha.
After such a day of new experiences and knowledge we certainly needed the drink at sunset!
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