“ A war monument in Vientiane, Laos, built between 1957 and 1968. „
This is a sort of triumphal gate or arch way a little like the l'Arc du Triomphe in Paris and is ranked as number 17 of 115 things to do or see while in Vientiane, Laos. The arch like monument known as Patuxai is at the end Lang Xang Avenue which runs from Herkam palace to the That Luang Stupa and this road is also sometimes called "the Champs Elysees of Vientiane".
The monument is open from 8am-4.30pm Mon-Fri and then to 5pm Sat-Sun and it costs the tiny amount of $0.30 US to visit so well worth making the effort.
This monument Patuxai literally translated means Victory Gate or Gate of Triumph. Patuxai broken down is two words, 'Patuu' or 'patu' means "door" or "gate" and 'Xai', which comes from a Sanskrit word 'Jaya', which means "victory" so that we get "Victory gate but over the years has been known by a number of other names. The French referred to it as the Monument aux Morts and it has previously been known as the Anousavary or Anosavari Monument which translated means "memory". It is a monument to honour those who lost their lives in the struggle for Independence from France and it stands proudly in the centre of Vientiane. The name was not changed to Patuxai until 1975 when the Pathet Lao took over the government of power in Laos and the country became independent.
The Monument was built between 1957 and 1968 and although it does resemble the famous arch in Paris it is not one you can drive through. It is within a sort of park area and as such it is pedestrian only so you can wander around and see it from various angles. The decoration on the archway is distinctly Laotian and has many Buddhist images decorating its surfaces.
Rather strangely the monument was built with funds from the USA and in the 1960s cement actually originally intended to build an airfield during the Vietnam War was used The US funds were given to the Laotian government to construct an Airport for the city but the government decided they would prefer to use the funds to build this monument!
The monument was designed by a Laotian architect Mr. Tham Sayasthsena. His design was chosen from many submitted and he was paid the grand sum of 30,000 kips for the design. The original cost of building the monument however was considerably more. The building began 1957 and at the time it was estimated that building would cost 63 million kips but we were not told what it actually did cost in the end but no doubt the USA funds and cement contribution helped considerably.
We had a driver and guide to ourselves in Vientiane and so we were able to be dropped off right at the monument with the guide. We walked down to one end of the small park area to the Peace Gong first which was a huge gong under a sort of roof a bit like an old fashioned well. This gong was presented to the Lao People's Democratic Republic by the World Peace Committee of the Republic of Indonesia in November 2008. The gong was gold and all around the gong were small images of all the flags of the world. The gong was directly in line with the centre of the larger Putaxai monument.
The park is all paved surrounding Patuxai but it is still a lovely spot with many flower beds and benches to sit and watch the world pass by. Several snack stalls as well as a dancing musical fountain are also features of this city park area which is popular with locals and tourists alike.
The monument differs from the famous arch in Paris in that it has five towers which represent the five Buddhist principles of "thoughtful amiability, flexibility, honesty, honour and prosperity"
The monument has gateways on four sides each facing east west, south and north. In front of each gate is a pond and these ponds represent the open section of a lotus flower. The four corners of the gateways have fearsome looking statues of a Naga King who is a mythical symbol of Laos.
Underneath the archway is a plaque which is actually very honest and quite oddly comical in its description of the monument. It describes Patuxai as a "monster of concrete" and "less impressive" from a closer distance. It also refers to the fact that it was made using concrete donated for an Airport giving the monument is nickname of Vientiane's "vertical runway".
We decided we were there so we may as well go up inside the monument and left our guide at the bottom enjoying a drink with friends he was chatting to. As you reach the first floor there are a few stalls and some tourist information, some souvenirs and snacks. You are forced to walk through the stalls to get to the next set of stairs.
The second floor has further stalls as well as asort of small rather tired museum with statues and pictures of the iconic heroes and heroines of the country.
The top floor that has the viewing platform from where you get a pretty good panoramic view of Vientiane could be seen. Sadly it was raining on the day we went up so we sort of rushed to each side took a few photos and rushed back into the relative dry.
It was interesting and worth a visit but sadly sort of missing something. It was as though they had rather lost interest in the place part way though and not bothered finishing it. The stalls were pretty shabby and sold nothing of any great interest and I felt rather sorry for them sitting there all day selling nothing. The day we went it was relatively cool as it was raining but I understand from our guide that on hot days it is stifling inside.
If you are in Vientiane I am sure you will visit the monument as it is one of the must see places on most itineraries but its interest in more in the fact that it was built sneakily from funds meant to be used for an airport. It now celebrates those who died fighting France for Independence but I believe it had been begun earlier. It is a complicated and mixed up monument but worth a look and it is in a popular park with locals so a good place to people watch too.
For those wanting to convert the Lao kip to £ : £1 = 12,544 kip!! I leave it to the mathematicians as those numbers are pretty scary.
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