The locals call it Xieng Khuan (“Spirit City”): a park built by a Lao mystic in 1958, located some 24 km beyond the capital Vientiane, on the banks of the Mekong River. The artisans who created the park and its statues were no experts, drawing from their master’s imagination and their skills in concrete and steel to finish the job.
The park’s collection of 200-plus statues feels like a Hindu/Buddhist fever dream. Emaciated monks; characters derived from Hindu mythology; a 40-meter-long reclining Buddha; and a three-storey “pumpkin” that recapitulates the ascent from Hell to Heaven, as the visitor climbs to the structure’s summit.
It’s more folk art than fine art, but it’s a major Vientiane tourist draw nonetheless. Tourists willingly undertake the one-hour travel time from the city to explore the park. Entrance costs LAK 5,000; a camera fee of LAK 3,000 may be charged.