Wat Si Saket, Pha That Luang, the Lao Army Museum
Trip Start Jul 30, 2011
18Trip End Aug 17, 2011
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The first place I went to was Wat Sisaket. This is a Buddhist Temple relatively close to the Presidential Palace. The interesting thing about this temple is that the entrance leads into an open courtyard with a main temple in the center. All around the courtyard is an open arcade that houses thousands of little Buddha statues in wall niches while almost life size Buddhas sit in the lotus position on the ground.
The central temple in the courtyard holds a gigantic Buddha surrounded by little niches and various wall murals depicting scenes from his life. Unfortunately, pictures were not permitted to be taken inside the temple and the attendant would not leave. Therefore, I was unable to sneak any pictures.
The next place I went to was almost across the street to another temple called Haw Phra Kaew. This is a temple that also serves as museum. Before you walk, you're asked to remove your shoes. The interior of the temple/museum holds another Buddha along with many other artifacts. What is interesting about this place is the fact that visitors have literally stuffed the mouth of the dragon statues and attached money to the various Buddha statues inside.
After I finished my business at the temples, I then made the long trek to That Luang Temple. The site lay a bit further than I initially though. On the way to the site, I passed by numerous government buildings including Lao Cable TV. It didn't look like much. The Pha That Luang Buddhist Temple is essentially a large gold stupa where the devout head to. The stupa itself is surrounded by an outdoor gallery that houses various Buddhas and shrines.
Since I was in the same general, I headed to the People's Army Museum. It is much bigger and nicer than the National Museum. The only other person there was a female soldier who was serving as a ticket agent. The entire first floor has anti-aircraft guns and various types of military vehicles. The second floor is essentially a huge tribute to the Lao Army. There are hundreds of pictures and weapons used against the French and Americans. There is definitely a glorification of Communism present in the entire place. Once again, the labels were quite biased and called the French and Americans "aggressors" and "imperialists" while Lao allies of these countries are referred to as "puppets." One particular interesting part of the museum is a veritable rogues gallery of Lao officials with past Communist leaders. For example, they had pictures of government officials with Kim Il-Sung of North Korea, Ho Chi Minh of Vietnam, Fidel Castro of Cuba, and a delegation from East Germany.
Since I had pretty much covered all the major sites on my "to-do" list, I spent the rest of the day exploring. It was during that time that I came upon the former home of President Souphanouvong. The home is filled mainly with pictures of his life along with his office/study filled with works by Communist leaders but also science books as well.
I also came upon the Lao National Library. In the west, when we think of a national library, we think of a huge building. Not so in Laos. Like the rest of the city, the building is rather dilapidated and the interior is quite poor. There are schools in America that look to be in better condition than the National Library of Laos. Inside were mainly monks but also some laymen reading at wooden tables.
As the day drew down, I spent my last day taking a walk along the Mekong River at sunset.
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