COPEing with reality
02.25.2012 - 02.28.2012 90 °F
We didn’t expect much from Lao’s capital, Vientiane, however to our surprise we found a bunch of adventures to be had. After settling into our room we scooted out to Wat Sok Pa Luang (a Buddhist temple) for a meditation session that was open to foreigners. We learned and practiced both sitting and walking meditation however we struggled a bit with trying to work through the pains of sitting cross-legged for any length of time. Speaking with the monk after, he admitted that his legs hurt like hell too but the point of meditation is to take those feelings and ‘let go’ Kevin is now having mixed feelings about the silent retreat he was thinking about, if we do end up doing it, it’ll have to be at elevation so that the bugs won’t buzz in our ears the whole day!
We took our scooter to an outdoor sculpture garden called ‘Buddha Park’ which was filled with a mash-up of gigantic Hindu and Buddhist sculptures including a 50 meter long reclining Buddha. Although well done, the art had a consistent theme of weapons, death and fighting demons in the name of peace.
Our two favorites were a three story ‘pumpkin’ that contained several levels inside to crawl through; each level depicting the journey from the bottom of hell through the top of heaven with cement sculptures …
…and the other favorite was a heavily armed multi headed elephant that we used to recreate the scene in LotR where Legolas jumps up an elephant from his moving horse.
Of course our adventure out to Buddha Park was enhanced by the top two things you want to avoid as a tourist.
1. running out of gas
2. getting stopped and held by the police for no apparent reason other than to try to get us to fork out some lunch money for them.
We also explored the city with bicycles finding the Patuxai Victory Gate up to the Pha That Luang Stupa and around the Palace quite empty in the early morning. We also stumbled across a jam packed outdoor fitness class filled with 50 year old ladies that looked like some glorified version of a Richard Simmons video… Robin of course was eager to join.
As we were searching out a place to watch a cultural dance show, we heard about a hotel that had a nightly show around dinner time. We gave it a shot and met up with some friends at the show. Turns out that we were the only ones there and so had the 6 piece band, duo of singers, 4 dancers and a master bird caller and MC all to ourselves. The city is littered with big fancy hotels like this that must have shined in their hay day, but are now aged and empty of any tourists.
Our favorite place in Vientiane was C.O.P.E. (Cooperative Orthotic and Prosthetic Enterprise). This center for wounded people has a prosthetic and wheelchair workshop with an amazing informative display on the impact of cluster bombs in Laos. Laos had more cluster bombs dropped on it than any other country in the Vietnam War and because about 30% of the bombs dropped did not detonate, these live “bombies” make the countryside of Laos a very dangerous place for children and for farmers. This center is very sad, yet very educational, including a theater for documentaries and hands on examples of different types of bombs and prosthetics. If you pay COPE a visit, try to find a 17 year old boy named Peter and tell him we say ‘sa bai dee’, he is now completely blind and missing both of his hands, yet his spirits are high and he has a great stories to share.
Oddly enough, it was while we were looking for the C.O.P.E. center when Robin felt a sharp pain in her left knee. We weren’t jogging very fast when she felt the pop. We will have to let the swelling fade before we can get a clear diagnosis so Robin will have to cope with the ice and rest.