The park, also known as Xieng Khuan and Xiengkuane Buddha Park was built in 1958 by Luang Pu (translated as Venerable Grandfather) Bunleua Sulilat. Luang Pu Bunleua Sulilat was a priest-shaman, myth-maker, mystic and sculpture artist with a large following in Laos and later in Thailand. Born into a family of eight children in Thailand Sulilat was supposedly mentored by a hermit named Keoku whom he met after falling in cave. Sulilat’s particular brand of mysticism integrated Hinduism and Buddhism and united the Thai and Laotian peoples. Later Sulilat was forced to flee from Laos to Thailand after the revolution in 1975. There, he built another sculpture park, Sala Keoku in Nong Khai.
Xieng Khuan park was Sulilat’s first sculpture park and was built by the side of the Mekong River, about 25 kilometers from Vientiane. Said to have been built by himself and his students – all non-trained artists – the park is an astounding display of outsider artistry. The iconography is reflective of the imaginative the philosophy of this man, and closely resembles a south-east Asian interpretation of the mannerist gardens of 1600s Europe such as the Monsters of Bomazaro park, in Italy.
The statues are made of reinforced concrete and are ornate, and sometimes bizarre, in design. The statues appear to be centuries old, though they are not. The park houses over 200 sculptures made from concrete in varying sizes from small to very large. The sculptures of the Buddha, several Hindu Gods, demons and mythological creatures like a three headed elephant are pretty weathered, giving them an impression of being old.
One of the most striking sculptures is a giant pumpkin with three floors. At the front is a large mythological creature, its open mouth serving as the entrance. Its three floors represent Hell, Earth and Heaven. A staircase inside the pumpkin leads to the platform on top, from where good views of the park can be had.
In the middle of the park, the Buddha statue stands out, a giant reclining Buddha image, about 40m long, with a relaxed appearance like the posture of Buddha entering Nirvana. Buddha's face is elegant, generous with a wide forehead, eyes closed slightly, smiling lip.
Buddha Park is located near Thadeua Village, just past the Thai Laos friendship bridge, about 25 kilometers South East of Vientiane on the banks of the Mekong river. There are several ways to get there. Local bus no 14 leaves several times per hour from Khua Din bus station next to the Talat Sao market to Buddha Park. The trip takes about 45 minutes and costs 6,000 Kip one way.
Another way to get there is to rent a motorbike. Although it is a fun ride with the opportunity to stop at other places along the way, beware of potholes and dusty roads. Make sure to be back in town before dark, as often there are very few or no street lights on local roads. Alternatively, hire a tuk tuk for the trip. The price depends on your bargaining skills and will be between 150,000 and 200,000 Kip. The driver will wait at the parking lot for the return trip to Vientiane.