Manmade arches have been used to commemorate both people as well as historical events all throughout history. Many of them draw tourists to see their grandeur, architecture, and beauty in cities around the world. One of the most famous, of course, is the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but there are many others as well. If you visit the Colosseum in Rome, you will find the Arch of Constantine with its three arches. One of the more interesting arches that we’ve seen was Patuxai (Victory Gate) in Vientiane, Laos. All of them are truly fascinating to see and to understand the history that they memorialize.
In the heart of Vientiane is Patuxai, or Victory Gate, which is Laos’ version of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. Just like the arch in Paris, going to the top of Patuxai provides amazing views of the city of Vientiane, which is the capital of Laos. The arch is made up of five levels that represent both the principals representing the coexistence of nations as well as the five principals of Buddhism. Regardless of the meanings of the five levels, today there are markets on each level as you climb to the top offering you the opportunity to buy local items and tourist trinkets.
In the square where the Patuxai arch sits, there is an interesting statue of elephants and a temple made completely from tea cups, saucers, and plates. We were told that it was a gift from China, which has a lot of influence over the country of Laos. It is interesting to see both from the ground as well as from the observation deck of Victory Gate. As you would expect, all of the roads lead to the arch, including the main road that leads to Presidential Palace. Sitting between the arch and the statue is a fountain that wasn’t running at the time of our visit, but we imagine it is quite beautiful, especially at night.
The arch was originally built in 1968 to honor the soldiers who died during World War II as well as the war for independence from France. In 1975, when the communist party overthrew the Laos government, the statue was renamed to its current name of Patuxai from its original name of Anousavali, which means monument. Regardless of its name, the main reason for visiting Patuxai is for the views of Vientiane, which are wonderful. It will only take an hour or so to visit the arch, even if you take some time to shop in the different levels within Patuxai.
Another extremely popular hiking trail in Arches National Park is the Devils Garden Trail. One of the reasons for its popularity is the diversity of the trail as well as the number of arches that can be seen on the trail. The first part of the trail is considered easy and also provides views of three arches, including the Landscape Arch, which was one of our favorites. After reaching the Landscape Arch, the trail becomes more difficult as you head toward Double O Arch and then the second half of the loop is extremely difficult where you need to rock scramble and there a steep slopes. For obvious reasons, many people only go as far as Landscape Arch, which was what we did as well.
In addition to hiking Devils Garden Trail, there are also some shorter trails in the area just before you reach Devils Garden that are worth exploring as well. We did the short hike to see Skyline Arch, which was definitely worth seeing. We also hiked to Sand Dune Arch, which was a short trail, but the sand was deep making it a little harder on the legs. We did not hike all of the way to Broken Arch, but it is clearly visible from the parking area near the Sand Dune Arch. As with any trail in Arches National Park, long or short, you will want to be sure to bring plenty of water. With temperatures climbing above 100 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer, it is important to where sunscreen and stay hydrated.
In addition to all of the tourists that were enjoying the trails, we also saw several lizards during our hikes. They seem to be quite used to the crowds and didn’t run away as people gathered around to take their photo. Snakes are also common in the park, as it is a desert environment, but we did not see any during our hikes. You will definitely see your share of birds as well from hawks to ravens. People should be sure to stay on the trails and not climb on the arches in order to protect the beautiful scenery for future generations to enjoy.
We hiked the Devils Garden Trail on our second day in Moab, Utah, so we had learned to get out early in the day to avoid as much of the heat as possible. The entrance to the park is only seven miles from Moab, but there were long lines of cars waiting to enter the park that took as long as thirty minutes before getting through the gate. Once through the entrance, it will take about another thirty to forty minutes to drive to Devils Garden if you don’t stop at any of the many pull-offs along the way. With so many arches in the area, Devils Garden is definitely a highlight of any visit to Arches National Park. If you have enough time in the park, we would also recommend hiking the Delicate Arch Trail to see one of the most well known arches in the park.