- Place or Religious Monument
- Archaeological Site
- Place or Historical Monument
- Unesco World Heritage
Wat Phou is lost in the calm of the Laotian countryside. You really must come next door to Champassak and visit this site, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I came during my 11 month long world tour, and if your trip to Laos includes a trip to Cambodia then Wat Phou is a perfect complement to Angkor. If it's possible then I think it 's better to go to Wat Phou first. Angkor is so grandiose that I might have been disappointed coming here afterwards.
This is the cradle of Khmer civilisation and it is very interesting to explore. I arrived by bike from Champassak and rode down the long alley with ruined palaces on both sides, and then walked up the great staircase which is shaded by beautiful frangipani. It's wonderful when they are in flower. Once you are at the top there is a view over the site and the surrounding countryside which encourages you to spend some time looking at it.
You can reach the site by bike. The route is easy to follow and it's a quiet road. Under a blazing sun, on a rickety bike, it took me a good 45 minutes to get there. I'd read in guides that if you've seen Angkor in Cambodia, you shouldn't expect to be as impressed by this site. I disagree! At first sight, under a hazy sky in the middle of scorched rice fields, I thought it may not be the best time to visit and that I'd come during the wrong season. Maybe... But that didn't put me off! The huge Frangipanis were covered in white and yellow Plumeria blooms, their root systems embedded between the stones, distorting and invading the foundations.
Wat Phu is quite simply magnificent. It was built on the flancs of a mountain and is a hommage to Shiva.
It takes a bit of effort to cover the hundred metres or so to reach the baray, which is empty of water at this time of year and climb the steps up to the beautifully preserved sculptures that decorate the upper temple.
Your legs may ache by the time you return to Champasak, but, like me, you'll probably be grinning from ear to ear after having spent a day exploring this architectural wonder.
Built on the foothills of the sacred Mount Pasak, this Khmer site is reminiscent of Angkor. Although a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2001, the sanctuaries, pavillions and temples have been ravaged over time. The good news is that restoration work is underway. The main ceremonial avenue, via which we entered the site, has had its lotus bud sculptures restored and recorded.
We strolled along two ponds (baray) where lotus flowers floated (a bonus that made up for the rainy season!) and the Khmer architecture was reflected off the surface. In a country that is already 'zen', Vat Phou takes it one step further; the perfect place for calm, quiet contemplation.
At the top of the stairs, Hindu and Buddhist worshippers invited us to watch them lay carnations as offerings to a Hindu Trinity carved into the rock or at the feet of the many Buddha statues. We continued our walk as far as the stone crocodiles and elephants, reaching the source of the sacred waters that flow into the cave where worshippers gather. Sitting up there, we caught our breath and gazed across a view that is easily described as 'heaven on Earth'.