I’ve always felt that the best way to really experience a new city is to get out and walk around it, as when you rush around in a tour bus or taxi in air-conditioned comfort, or even in a tuk-tuk and a cloud of blue exhaust smoke, you miss out on many of the sights and experiences that make each place different.
That’s especially true in Asia, where every corner, every alley, can hold something new and strange. While I’m not yet blasé to wats and temples, most Buddhist wats are fairly similar in design in Thailand and Laos so it was a pleasant surprise to stumble across “Phat Tich Temple” whilst walking towards my main destination, Pha That Luang.
I was waiting to cross the road and just happened to turn around and see a pagoda style building partly hidden from view behind me.
The signs were written in Laos and Vietnamese, the décor was rather garish in Chinese style and it was definitely a Buddhist temple so I assume it is a Vietnamese/chinese temple. There was a stairway leading to the upper levels, but it had a sign in Vietnamese which I guessed said “no entry’ so I only went up to the first level where the main altars were, guarded by a Chinese warrior rather than the usual Thai style figures.
Some more photos, click to enlarge them :
This temple is only a few hundred metres from Patuxai, which is one of the main tourist sites in Vientiane, yet there was nobody here apart from me. Perhaps because it is not mentioned in the backpackers bible (aka Lonely Planet) ?
Laos used to be a French colony, so when Laos built it’s own version of the Arc D’Triumphe it outdid it’s former masters by having 4 archways instead of just 2. The concrete for it was sent by the USA to build a runway at the airport, but was “diverted”.
It looks impressive from a distance, not so when close up …in fact there is even a sign there about the place which says …’from a closer distance it appears even less impressive, like a monster of concrete”. I don’t know whether that is honesty or just a poor translation ?
I assume this means “Keep off the grass” ? Certainly a poor translation in this case !
From Patuxai it was another kilometre or so up the road to Pha That Luang, the most important national monument in Laos …. so naturally it features on their currency. Five thousand Laos kip is worth around 65 cents US by the way ! That was the standard entry fee for foreign tourists at most attractions, or the cost of a can of Coke at the minimart next to my hotel (but US$1 from the hotel minibar). A Laos/Thai style meal , with a large bottle of Beer Lao would cost around 45000 kip.
The prices seemed a bit scary at first, till you got used to doing the arithmetic and realised how cheap the country
is. can be. A decent hotel would be your biggest expense, I booked and paid through Agoda to save hunting around for a place after I arrived and got a “special” price of $20 reduced from $75. Twenty dollars was a reasonable price but seventy five would have been daylight robbery !
So much for my plan ….
I managed to get a few photos without too many people strolling in front of the lens.
There are also a couple of wats (temples) next Pha That Luang, one looked like new from the outside and must have been renovated, but was almost empty inside. The other was showing it’s age outside but had some incredible murals inside.
It also had a large reclining Buddha and several others in the grounds of the temple.