Saturday, February 23, 2013

Buddha Park

       Today, I visited the Buddha Park just outside Vientiane. It is a large, grassy area along the Mekong River, filled with statues that seem to have been dropped there accidently. There appears to be no rhyme or reason to their arrangement, since they create a kind of maze without a destination, but each statue is unique. You're drawn through the park, almost simply because you can't imagine what else they could have possibly carved and placed there.
       The most interesting structure is three stories tall and shaped like a ball, one with little windows carved in the side and precarious stairways inside. If balance is not your forte and hights are not your friend, do not attempt to climb to the top. Once you emerge, crawling, through the small opening at the top, the new perspective is worth the climb.
       As I made my way back to land, a group of monks arrived to tour the park. Monks are highly regarded members of Lao society, and they are easy to spot around town in their orange robes. Foreigners often need to be reminded to respect their routines, and pictures are discouraged. I snapped a few from a distance, but I did not approach them or interrupt their wanderings.
       But here's where things became strange. As I was resting on a bench in the shade, the monks started taking pictures of me. While I tried to be subtle with my camera, they stood in a group, talking loudly, and snapping pictures in my direction. Not every day does a monk take a picture of you.
       Now, granted, I had a baby on my lap. That's really what they were taking a picture of, and had I set the baby down and removed myself from the frame, they probably would have been happier. Still, somewhere in a temple in Laos, I am immortalized on some monks' SD cards. That is, until they realize it was silly to take a picture of a hot, tired foreigner and wisely decide to delete it.

 The encouraging entrance

 The outer, well-lit hallway

Having their picture taken 

A sea of statues

Buddha Park

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