So I don’t have much to say about Vientiane but two things I did were really worth it so I wanted to still do a post for it. Vientiane definitely is not my type of city as it is a bit dull and has a different vibe that I can’t quite describe (though this might just because of the experience I had here but I think it’s a bit of both tbh). But if you are in Vientiane the first thing I would recommend is going to the Cope Visitor Center. Second if you time is hit Buddha Park.
The Cope Visitor Center first off is FREE of charge and more importantly it supports a really important and still relevant cause. COPE is a local non profit organization which provides care and services to UXO (unexploded ordnance) survivors with a large focus on orthotic and prosthetic devices.
They also work in partnership with a rehab centers to give survivors access to many different types of services. These services are provided at no cost for survivors who would not otherwise be able to afford the costs.
UXOs are ‘explosive weapons that failed to detonate when they were fired, dropped, launched or projected, and still pose a risk of exploding’. In Lao there are many UXOs contaminating the countryside and often times they explode when local people are farming, cooking, or when children pick them up thinking they are toys. Over 80,000 people have been injured or killed by UXOs and over half are children.
In the local schools puppet shows and other educational activities are put on to educate the children about the dangers of UXOs. Another big issue is local people scrapping metal for a living. Often times the risk of picking up a device is outweighed by the need to make a living.
As an American it was really heart wrenching but so important to understand how the war affected both Vietnam and neighboring countries like Laos. In my education I wasn’t taught much about this war and for sure was given a different perspective. I can say I had no idea of the lasting affects today on the local people. Here are some figures which stuck with me the most:
If you’re looking for a bit of a more peaceful outting heading to Buddha Park is a great idea. Especially after seeing something like the COPE visitor center it is nice to take some quiet time for reflection.
This famous culture park has over 200 religious statues including a huge 40-metre high reclining Buddha. Cost of entry is 5,000 kip per person.
Many people opt for taking a tuk tuk to Buddha park. We found the prices to be quite high and knew that we could get there on our own on a local bus. We walked to the main shopping center and hopped on the number 14 bus. There was also a sign on the bus for Buddha Park but ask any bus driver and they will point you in the right direction. It was super cheap I think 6,000 kip for one way. The bus will drop you right outside the park.
We spent about an hour walking around enjoying the sights and sounds of music. There also is a river in the back with nice scenery.