Review of Volunteer Journey in Nong Khai, Thailand – Part 3
We had the weekend off from volunteering at Open Mind Projects. For me personally it was an open space to integrate what was all given, received and shared during the first week. Along with this I also needed to get some extra sleep as well due to the jet leg.
Saturday, April 1 (this is for me no fool’s day)
We were invited by Sven, Co director of Open Mind Projects, to come to his house and than we (7 of us) all went out for dinner at a lovely restaurant close to his home. Gaweechat (Co Director of Open Mind Projects) ordered various dishes to the liking of everyone. Very tasty some a bit spicy others spicy but so lovely to be in such good company.
Sunday, April 2
This morning I walked to Salakaewko “Sculpture Park” from the Guest House.
I first visited a Stupa which was lovely seeing it also had many clear quartz crystals in the Temple.
On the way, a lady stopped with her motorbike to give me a ride to the Park. It was such a compassionate gesture to be in such Gratitude.
Here is an outline of the Park written by Julian Wright of Mut Wee Garden Guest House
You can’t come to Nong Khai and not see the very strange Sculpture Park known as Salakaewkoo… World famous, as one one of the most extraordinary artistic creations of South-East Asia, it contains sculptures that rise more than seven stories high! It was built by the mystic shaman Luang Poo Boun Leua Sourirat, who passed away in 1996, after constructing it, with the help of devotees, for more than twenty years.
Luang Poo Boun Leua Sourirat loved snakes, so much so that he believed in the “coming of the age of the snake”. Seeing them as the purest of all animals, having no arms or legs with which to destroy the world, he described himself as being half man, half snake. Was this love of these phallic like animals in some way connected with his reputed homosexuality? He claimed that in his youth he had fallen into a hole in the forest where upon he met the acetic “Kaewkoo” who lived at the bottom of it. “Kaewkoo” taught him all secrets of the underworld, not least about snakes which were the principal inhabitants of that realm. Later, he trained as a Hindu Rishi in Vietnam and mixed Hinduism into his system of beliefs.
As a Lao national, he first started to produce sculpture on the riverbank on the Lao side of the Maekong river. But as the communists became more powerful, he became concerned that they may not accept his unorthodox views and so fled to Nong Khai in 1974, where he embarked on the creation of Salakaewkoo; his grandest artistic vision. The name means the “Pavilion of Kaewkoo”.
Luang Poo passed away in 1996 aged in his early seventies. He was ill, it was said, from a fall from a ladder up one of his sculptures. But others claimed that he was suffering from some kind of anemia.
The main building and incence chapel were built after his death, following his plans and drawings. He always claimed that his followers, who built all the statues, were entirely untrained, but their skill came to them from a divine source. Moreover, he frequently warned that anyone who drank even a sip of water in the park would eventually give to it all their money! However, in the years following his death Salakaewkoo became more and more run down and untidy… until the local government stepped in and decided that his legacy should not be allowed to deteriorate further, so now it is being repaired and restored to its former grandeur.
There are more than one hundred sculptures in the park some of them reaching seven stories up into the sky. Some depict snakes, others images taken from either Theravada or Mahayana Buddhism. Hinduism is well represented too, with images of Shiva and Pavati, Brahma and Vishnu.
The greatest sculpture of all is the Wheel of Life at the far end of the park. As this diagram shows (for a clear printable copy, click on it to download an Adobe pdf version) in Luang Poo’s view, is a cycle of influences and phases, which start at one’s conception and end at one’s death. The Buddhist elements of heat, breath, wisdom and change are represented, as are the stages of birth, aging, suffering and death. Finally, one follows the Lord Buddha over the wall of life to nirvana…
On the way, back to the Guest House walking on the Highway once more a lady with a motorbike gave me a short ride.
The afternoon I spent sleeping.