One of the most fascinating triumphal arches in the world can be found in a country in Southeast Asia.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at some interesting facts about Patuxai, an amazing monument in Laos.
1. The arch is located in the heart of the capital of Laos
Patuxai is a colossal monument in the heart of Vientiane, the capital of Laos, a small country in Southeast Asia. It’s situated at the end of Lang Xang Avenue, one of the major roads in the city.
It’s also part of the Patuxai Park which features several ponds and fountains and is a popular spot for both tourists and locals.
From a distance, the arch looks quite similar to its famous French counterpart, the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It is, however, heavily decorated with traditional Laotian ornaments, something that becomes pretty clear up close.
2. The monument’s name has multiple variations
The literal translation of Patuxai is “Victory Gate.” It’s a combination of the words “Patu,” which means “Gate,” and “Xai,” which translates to “Victory.”
The translated name from the Laotian language can come in multiple variations, including Patuxai, Patuxay, Patousai, and Patusai. The original name of the monument was “Anousavary” or “Anosavari Monument.”
The French, on the other hand, refer to the monument as “Monument Aux Morts,” which translates to “Monument of the Death.”
3. It was built for a special reason in the 1950s and 1960s
There’s a reason why the French refer to this monument as such because it was built between 1957 and 1968 in honor of the Laotian soldiers who fought and died during both the Second World War and the Laotian War of Independence from France in 1949.
The country eventually became independent on October 22, 1953, and the arch was constructed when the country was a constitutional monarchy. This monarchy was abolished in 1975 by the communists who were in turn overthrown in 1991, the year that the current Constitution of Laos was created.
One of the most remarkable facts about Patuxai is that it wasn’t completed and officially inaugurated until the year 2010, the year of the 450th anniversary of Vientiane as the capital of Laos.
4. The arch was indirectly funded by the United States
One of the most astounding facts about Patuxai is that the U.S. Government played a major role in its construction, even though they didn’t intend to do so.
In the 1960s, they purchased cement for the construction of a new airport. As this cement came into the hands of the Laotian Government, they decided to use it to build this monumental triumphal arch instead, something that cost a total of 63 million kips.
Because of this, the monument is sometimes mockingly referred to as the “Vertical Runway.”
5. The design of the arch isn’t exactly praised
As with many of these honorific monuments, the design was chosen through a competition, and the winner was a former Laotian soldier named Tham Sayasthsena, a self-taught architect who beat numerous renowned architects with his design.
Regardless, his design isn’t held in high esteem by the local government. This is even mentioned on a plaque located on the northeastern corner which straight-up mentions that the arch looks like a “monster of concrete.”
6. The monument’s 5 towers have a special meaning
The arch is decorated with 5 towers on top of it, which have a deeper meaning. These represent the “five principles of coexistence,” also referred to as the “Panchsheel Treaty: Non-interference in others internal affairs and respect for each other’s territorial unity integrity and sovereignty.”
These rules were initially conceived after the signing of a treaty between India and China in 1954 and involve:
- mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty?
- mutual non-aggression.
- mutual non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.
- equality and mutual benefit.
- peaceful co-existing.
7. The towers are decorated with frescoes
There are a total of 4 towers on each corner of the arch, and a central tower that leads up to the top floors. The cloister vaults of these towers have been decorated with frescoes.
These depict various gods such as Vishnu, Brahma, and Indra, and while these are nice additions to the monument, they aren’t nearly as elaborated and of the same quality as some of the frescoes painted on ceilings of monuments in Europe.
8. The monument features 4 archways as opposed to 2
One of the most intriguing Patuxai facts is that the arch doesn’t feature the usual 2 archways as most triumphal arches. It actually features 4 archways which are in direct line with the 4 directions East, West, North, and South.
The East and West archways are in direct line with the major boulevard of Vientiane, Long Xang Avenue, as well. This street is used during ceremonies and national parades in the capital of Laos.
In front of each gateway, there’s a pond that represents the open petals of a lotus flower. The 4 corners of the gateways are decorated with statues of a Naga King, mythical symbols of Laos.
9. The top floor of the arch features an observation deck
The arch features a staircase that leads visitors all the way to the top of the monument. Before reaching the top floor, tourists have to pass by souvenir shops that sell t-shirts and all sorts of souvenirs, as well as a museum dedicated to the brave soldiers who fought during the wars.
The central tower on top of the arch has a staircase that leads tourists to the observation deck, one of the best spots in Vientiane to get a great view of the city!
10. The arch has lighting installed and looks amazing at night
Another amazing feature of the arch is the installed lighting which allows the arch to be illuminated at night. This turns this huge concrete monster into one of the most fascinating landmarks in the world at night!