Go to Razzle Dazzle welcome page. Northern Laos
 

Vientiane


September, 2004

Laos photo.
1. Thanon Lan Xang
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Laos photo.
2. Pha That Luang
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Laos photo.
3. Temple interior
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Laos photo.
4. Wat Si Saket
nul. nul.

Vientiane is the capitol of Laos. With a population of about 140,000 it is a fairly small, but growing, city. Most of the infrastructure and the old French colonial buildings seem to be in poor repair. We spent a few days here before returning to Bangkok at the end of August. We did a bit of sight-seeing, and Jim finished up our website reports about the month we have spent in Northern Laos. One of the places we wanted to see was the Patuxai Monument, the Laotian equivalent of the Arc De Triomphe. Unfortunately, it was surrounded by construction barriers during our visit. We could only see it from a distance (see photo #1, at left).

Perhaps the most recognizable symbol of Laos is the Great Sacred Stupa, or Pha That Luang (photo #2). It's image appears everywhere, including on all of the Laotian currency. The Stupa is quite striking from a distance. Up close, it is not nearly as impressive as many other similar structures we have seen in Thailand and Burma. The surface is covered with a gold-colored paint rather than the gold leaf we have seen at so many other temples and pagodas. Still, it is beautifully proportioned, and quite lovely. Here are four more photos of the Stupa:

There are several wats near the Stupa. We entered a wat on the north side (we don't know it's name) and found the interior to be very impressive (photo #3). As in many Buddhist temples, the story of Buddha's life is portrayed in paintings around the interior of the withan. It is interesting that the painted scenes were originally intended to allow illiterate worshipers to learn the stories. Here they have added captions for those who can read but who do not recognize the stories from the drawings. From the wat entrance, we had a very nice view of the Stupa.

Another place of interest in Vientiane is Wat Si Saket (photo #4). Much of this very old temple is now a museum, housing many old Buddhist relics. The cloister contains the typical row of Buddha images around the outer wall, but adds thousands of small niches which each contain another Buddha. Everything at Wat Si Saket seemed old and dusty, including the courtyard. But it is still in use, and we saw worshipers in the withan and others walking v-e-r-y slowly around the terrace as a form of meditation. Also, there are many new bone reliquaries for the ashes of recently deceased worshipers.

We spent just a few days in Vientiane, and then returned to Bangkok. We planned to take the night train, but they were sold out for the day we wanted to make the trip. We decided to take a night bus instead. The bus is not as comfortable as the train, but it was actually more convenient for us. It cost about the same price as the train. We arrived back in Bangkok on time and with no problems. We were probably the only people over 30 years of age on the bus.

 

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Jim and Jamie Richter, http://gotouring.com/razzledazzle/
Website designed and created by Lois Richter, expanded by Jim.
Created 8/2004. All text & photos are © 2004 Jim Richter.