Wat Phu–The Fast and the Furious

20 Mar

Well, perhaps not furious. It’s difficult to get cross in Lao – 7 million people in an area about the size of the UK – and 6 million of them live in rural villages in homes on stilts. Which makes a lot of sense – all your ‘stuff’ out of the way underneath, and living accommodation on top. Place for some chickens, a pig or two, one or two dogs, cats, and other assorted wildlife. And they smile all the time. And yell ‘Sabaidee’ at you for no reason. Lovely, gorgeous, unspoilt people.

Anyway, off to Champrasak. I am surprised to find Jean Luc and Kathy waiting at the crossroads, but we catch a very full bus together – turns out we are all off to Champrasak.

The bus turns into Pakse station, and we fend off the offers of tuk tuks to Pakse – instead, it’s smaller transport for us for the hour trip to Champrasak. Unfortunately, the song thaew ain’t going to leave early, so we have an hour watching the market unfold around us – the sales of baguettes (a huge legacy from the French) and some careful tying of a basket of live fish onto the back of the song thaew. And check the water bottles on the top of this one…

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An uneventful trip, apart from the fact that the road is closed, which means we need to divert down a dusty track. My Buff comes in handy, but converts me into a gangster lookalike. Waiting for a photo of that one….

As usual, the driver drops us at a guest house he has some sort of deal with – but at 30000 kip it’s a bargain even without airconditioning and with a cold shower (more like lukewarm, jokes the owner – he’s right)

I’ve planned to spend two nights here, but Jean Luc, Kathy and Keri (Kerry?) from Canada, who we’ve met in the restaurant, suggest we could go to the temple today – which sounds like a good plan to me. Into a tuk tuk for another theme park ride through the Lao countryside – over rickety bridges and down bumpy lanes until we get to Wat Phu (there’s a joke there, I just haven’t worked it out yet).

Wat Phu is probably the most significant historical sight in Laos – originally a Hindu temple built by the Khmer as part of the capital in the 5th century, and then transferred to Buddhism later. It’s a beautiful location, nestled in the mountains (Phu Kao – still searching for that joke). There are beautiful frangipani trees just bursting into blossom. There’s a huge but gorgeous climb to the temple, and views over the plains below.

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The hill is regarded as phallic out here.. and hence the phallic symbology all the way up the path too. We couldn’t stop Kathy indulging in a little fantasy.

 

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It’s probably the prettiest setting I have found out here – there’s a lot of work going on from international groups to restore the temple to something of its former glory – but just to sit in this kind of scenery is a real treat!

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We’ve got Hindu depictions aplenty (although the shrine is treated as Buddhist – so we find Shiva dressed in the Buddha’s robes.

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Scattered around the ruins are carvings of an elephant and a crocodile – and the Buddha’s foot print.

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And so back to Champrasak – a really brief visit, and the view from the restaurant across the Mekong is gorgeous – I can see the fishermen checking their nets – and a gorgeous sunrise (I was scared awake at 4am by those infernal roosters)

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but there’s not much to keep me here now – and so it’s time for a trip to the islands… but not before I temporarily mislay my wallet (NOW you find the ‘furious’ bit) although I later discover it hidden away somewhere safe. Too safe, perhaps. Doh!

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