Wat Phou and Champasak Town in southern Laos
16.01.2011 - 16.01.2011
It sure is a rocky road to heaven.
The road to Vat Phu is full of pot holes so you really can’t spend too long admiring the countryside and watching the local life otherwise you might end up with your insides being jiggled about! I made the mistake of looking around too often, as soon as something off the road would catch my eye, boom, I’d hit another pot hole. It’s a good 12km ride out to the world-heritage listed site from Champasak town and it starts getting pretty hot after 11am!
But the real meaning behind that remark is the ruins at Vat Phu. The steps up are fairly well still stacked in a stairway formation but broken up a bit – not bad given they were probably built around the 11th-12th century AD. It is a little rocky so watch your step!
The frangipani trees growing out of the stairway add a little mystique to the place and I noticed quite a few people could not resist taking one or two and putting it in their hair. When you get to the top and look down, you realize someone was really thinking when they built this place. It is a prime location with a great view of Champasak and the palaces below.
I think the Oscar definitely goes to the stonemasons and the people that built Wat Phu. The stonework carvings on the sanctuary/temple at the top are magnificent. It may have had some preservation work done to it, but they still look amazing. I’d find it hard to believe if any modern architecture would still be in such good shape with such attention to detail 10 centuries from now. It’s really amazing.
Going to the museum first was a definite plus as it meant that the sculptures and carvings made a lot more sense when you see it on the site. The map on the back of the ticket was also particularly useful and well thought out!
What was nice was that the locals are still using the spring water for their own use. 2 little girls were filling up their water bottles when I arrived. There were also plenty of recent offerings to the shrines and buddha’s about the Vat. It’s nice that it’s still a living temple, not just an archaeological site… there’s something very comforting about that.
The best part is to be there in the morning before the large groups of tourists arrive. I basically had the place to myself to wander around and you can just about go anywhere. There are no ropes or signs to say this way please. Just wander at will. It’s marvelous. It’s a great place to meditate or bring a book or just sit and enjoy the views. There are a few vendors selling refreshments at the top, so you could spend a fair bit of time there.