STATUE PARK IN FAR NOTH THAILAND
SALA KAEW KU
Off the usual tourist track, this Statue Park in the North of Thailand is a very special place. It is a visual extravaganza, with the senses becoming overwhelmed at the volume of statues in a relatively small space. It was designed and built by Bunleua Sulilat. He was born in 1932 and I am told that he early on in his life he fell into a cave and met hermit Keoku, his spiritual mentor, after whom this park was named.
He started his first sculpture park in 1958 in Laos, but after the communist revolution of 1975 he fled across the Mekong to Thailand and began work on this park in the town of Nong Khai and about 3 kilometres from the Mekong which is the border to Laos.
The first thing that stuck me was there was no admission fee. Compared to what I was used to in other parts of Thailand it was unusual, it only had a donations box close to the entrance. After making a donation we entered the park with some statues over 25 Metres tall towering above you. There is a definite divine theme with a Buddhist and Hindi influence. The statues are all made of concrete and the weather and moss make them feel a lot older than they are. In fifty years they will look ancient.
As I walked around the park I was busy taking photographs and trying to soak in the significance of each sculpture. While the park contained deities and religious icons it also contained representations of couples in love and also many animals such as elephants, dogs and horses.
On the day we went we had the place to ourselves and wandered around this surreal place for over an hour with no sight of other visitors or workers. It is hard to describe but as you journey around the park a sense of calm comes over you, and I would liken it to the feeling that you get when you enter a church or temple.
There is a three story pavilion that has a large domed roof that houses the mummified body of the creator of the park, Bunleua Sulilat, who passed away in 1996. If you are in the area I would highly recommend a visit to this wonderland. It is a visual overload. Words cannot do justice to this place, so I will let the photographs speak for themselves.