AsiaLaosBan That

Extremely off the Beaten Track in Southern Laos, in search of Angkorean Ruins

Ban That Travel Blog

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Early the following morning I jumped on my motorbike in pitch darkness to head to the ruins for my early sunrise. As I arrived I was pretty annoyed that no one was there to open the gate. It wasn't long though when one of the other curators popped out to open it for me. By god the sunrise was AMAZING! PICTURES PICTURES PICTURES to describe it... too lazy now LOL.

After spending a good hour or two at the very top, I met up with Soovanh Kanhapan and we jetted off to the other Khmer ruins. Our first two stops were fairly well known but small, Prasat Ho Nang Sida and Prasat Thao Tao. Prasat Ho Nang Sida had a small lake nearby that apparently contains a sandstone statue of a life size crocodile, and it's only visible when the lake dries up in the dry season.
Both ruins are in very poor shape and isn't a must unless your a Khmer ruins fanatic and have to tick every ruin off your list. In order to reach Prasat Thao Tao we had to park the motorbike in a village and walk a few kilometres through rice paddy fields!

And now the search begins. Our next potential destination was Prasat That Ban That. The journey to Prasat That Ban That wasn't too bad, and I was very surprised to see 3 high and pround Khmer sandstone towers. Surrounding the site on all four sides were 4 mini sandstone elephants, which are apparently modern reproductions.

The journey to the next stop was horrendous. Prasat That Ban Nasamrieng, is located deep inside the forest. The journey to get here was a long grueling, hot and a very slow ride.
There were no roads. We were literally deep in the countryside where civilisation is at it's least.

The road there was by oxcart road, it was all full of very fine white sand. So riding on it was very slow because as soon as you accelerated you would slide. Soovanh was a very good driver and we never fell over, not even once. I told him if I was riding I would of slipped and fell over within 10 seconds. The journey took a few hours before we parked the motorbike on the road and met up with some laotion girls, who led us to Prasat That Nasamrieng. Prasat That Nasamrieng was totally covered in thorny bushes, Soovanh managed to clear a path and I toured around the enclosed single brick tower. Nearby was also a baray that still had water!

Our next potential stop was less than 15km away, we had travelled so far and so long that I was very disheartened to hear that it was not safe to approach this area.
The reason being that even in this day and age Vietscamese soldiers were infiltrating Laos. (When I got back to the guesthouse, a few people from Holland were very surprised to hear that the Vietscamese soldiers were on the Thai/Laos side of the Mekhong, as had only heard of the Vietscamese soldiers on the Viet/Laos side of the Mekhong).

We returned the way we came, the way I dreaded most. As we got back to Wat Phu after countless hours. Soovanh informed me that there was one more semi easy site to get to, Prasat Om Muong... no not the same as the one I visited the day before. This Prasat Om Muong is located slightly up the mountain. We parked the motorbike at a village, and Soovanh went to go find the 'hunter' who knew the mountains very well.
We trekked through the rice paddyfields for about 2km, and then started our decent up the mountain. Arghhh if I knew it was going to be this hard I would of left it for another trip as I was already aching from the long uncomfortable bike ride to Prasat That Nasamrieng!

Prasat Om Muong was a single brick structure that had some Khmer Sanskrit writing on a carved sandstone. Inside the Prasat was a deep hole that was apparently 15m deep and used to contain some ancient relics. Pillaging of ancient relics isn't only evident in Cambodia, but in Thailand and Laos as well. The hunter said that some foreigners came to examine the site and measured the hole.

The hunter also mentioned another site further up the mountain that contained yet another Prasat and also a cave that housed some religious carvings and lingas.
As I said I'm leaving this for another trip. The trip to the top of the mountain takes 2 days. It seems that the hunter does it regularly :S

We returned back to my guesthouse and I had a talk with Soovanh and he informed me that at Prasat Om Muong in the river besides the ruins were underwater carvings that can only be seen during the dry season. This was fresh news for me and I anticipate a return to visit these unseen treasures in Laos.
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photo by: droonsta