Day 028 – Buddha Park

2008/10/01 § Leave a comment

Yesterday the wet season showed that it is not quite over yet. So I took the chance and visited the first big-ass western-style gym in Vientiane. After a decent workout I was served a nice massage for an hour. Amazingly the whole experience did not cost more than 5 Euros! Europe might have some things to learn from Laos.

I also managed to finish a book called “Fleisch ist mein Gemüse” (Meat is my vegetable). A rather entertaining and funny book about a guy who plays as Saxophonist in a dance-combo and is as much a looser as the vocation suggests. If you are looking for a light-hearted book that is set in the German subculture of the 80s, this is your book.

Today I have visited a site called “Buddha Park” where some guy has collected a stupendous amount of Buddha figures and put them in a garden by the Mekong river, where cows are grazing between the stone figures. A bizarre and strangely interesting site indeed. However, not so many tourists seem to make it there, since it is a fair bit outside of the city. I didn´t mind being there by myself though.

The rest of the day I just drove around with a motorbike that I had rented. I still find that one of the most intimate ways of getting to know the place and spy on its people. Randomly cruising around into the little villages that offer no other interesting aspect than just people´s daily life that seems rather different to ours. Latest when someone yells “falang” (Foreigner) and points at you you know that not too many people visit here usually. 😉

But what is the essence of a country anyhow, and what the way to get to know it? The other day someone again said something like “Berlin is not Germany” (as people also like to say “Paris is not France”, “New York is not the USA”, or, “Rome is not Italy”). But this time I did not just agree, because it suddenly stuck me how dumb this notion was in reality. Of course a city is never the equivalent of the country in which it is situated. But where “is the country” then? In the case of Germany you would have to find that there are several regions which are very different from each other. People speak dialects so distinct that they struggle to understand each other if not agreeing on talking in standard German.

Arguably people´s attitudes and ways of thinking are different from each other in different regions. Certainly this is reflected in cultural differences (again, I am a believer in stereotypes and think culture is the best indicator of it). Again, where will I then find Germany (or France or the US and so on)?

Is it not rather true, that in most cases a capitol city, or for that matter most large cities, are the essence of all that the surrounding area offers? Is it not rather true that a city like Berlin is more Germany than Germany itself? Is it not the best and most complete representation of the nation because it houses the people from all corners of the nation and creates an entirely fused culture utilizing all ingredients the country has to offer?

I sure would like to think so!

Where I come from (Eifel) every village´s inhabitants loves to think of themselves as special and different from the surrounding villages. But interestingly, many would identify more with Cologne (the largest city in the vicinity) than further away cities. And in a way a certain and special pride can often be noted if people identify with Cologne and its culture more than they would with the village next door.

Maybe it is not a good idea to say such things as Berlin is not Germany. Knowing Berlin might be the closest you can get to knowing Germany…just a thought… 🙂


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