With its crenellated upper level topped with five ornate towers in the traditional Laos style, the Patuxai Victory Monument cuts a distinctive figure on the Vientiane skyline. It forms the centrepiece of Patuxai Park, and is dedicated to the Laos who were killed in the fight to gain independence from France, as well as from the nation’s earlier occupiers, Siam and Japan.
Situated at the end of one of the capital’s grand avenues, the large, square arch is reminiscent of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. However, as a monument to Laos’ resilience and eventual independence, Patuxai was designed to pay homage to its national culture and traditions. Its exterior embellishments feature both Buddhist religious symbols such as lotus leaves and the stupa-shaped towers, and statues of animist kinnari (half-female and half-bird figures) and nagas (dragons).
The interior of the monument is also richly decorated with painted walls and ceilings depicting gods, goddesses and elephants. For a small fee, you can climb to the top to enjoy the panoramic view of the charming, old-fashioned city of Vientiane with its many trees, low-rise buildings and temples, and all the way across the Mekong River to Thailand.
• Patuxai was built between 1957 and 1968 using funds from the U.S. government.
• It is sometimes nicknamed the ‘vertical runway’ as the cement used was intended for the construction of a new airport.
• The name comes from the Sanskrit words for door or gate (patu) and victory (jaya).
• Patuxai features four arches, facing North, South, East and West.
• The four corner towers and fifth central tower that crown the arch symbolise the five Buddhist principles of thoughtful amiability, flexibility, honesty, honour and prosperity.
• The seven floors of the monument contain administrative offices as well as a gift shop, a museum and the upper viewing galleries.
• Patuxai Park is a popular place to stroll around in the afternoons among the palm trees and lotus ponds. There is also a musical fountain that was donated by China.
• The peace gong at the northern end of the park was presented to Laos by Indonesia in recognition of Laos being named the world’s most peaceful country.
• For an entrance fee of 3,000 Kip (38 US cents) you can take the stairs or the new lifts to the top floor viewing area.