Once in Nong Khai we were told by everyone and their Thai girlfriend to go and see Sala Kaew, a sculptural park that includes some very bizarre, surreal and creatively impressive concrete statues filled with Hindu and Buddhist imagery.
As the story goes, Luang Poo Boun Leau Sourirat, a Lao national, tumbled into a hole as a child, where he met an ascetic named Kaewkoo, who introduced him to the manifold mysterials of the underworld and set him on course to become a Brahmanic yogi-priest-shaman. As a sign of his gratefulness, Luang build the park and named it after his teacher.
Before we set off for the park, however, Zhenia bought a hat - simply charming!
As we approached the park an enormous concrete Buddha appeared right in front of us.
On entry into the park we were immediately confronted with one of the more bizarre sculptures: a pack of dogs wielding booze, guns, riding motorbikes (all with erections) angrily surrounding a huge elephant.
One of the stranger representations in the 'Wheel of Life': adultery. Here the husband slaps his mistress while his wife looks on laughing. In the background you can see two skeletons representing the death of love.
In the middle of the wheel sits a large head with many little heads on top of it, representing (according to the artist's view) the many faces that a person has throughout his/her life. From bottom to top in order: your best face, your most evil face, again your best face, your strange face, an even stranger face, the snake, good face, zero. If you ask us, the whole thing is strange but curiously interesting.
More information and pictures about the park can be found at www.mutmee.com, just click on the 'Town to Explore' section. Also, a digital version of the above "Wheel of Life" is available on the same website.
Pat and Tom were later given a brief tour of the main building, a shrine to Luang Poo Boun Leau Sourirat himself, which included his mummified body (no pictures allowed, unfortunately). The most fun in the park, though, was feeding the fish.
Later, we celebrated another religious monument, a massive rotisserie chicken machine and shared a spiritual moment around a whole chicken (feet and all).