Champasak : Meeting the Khmer at Wat Phu Champasak

Champasak Travel Blog

 › entry 124 of 268 › view all entries
Approcahing the Mekoong once more... Champasak on the other side.

Hmm.  An interesting night bus from Vientienne to Pakse last night.  First one I’ve been on where you’re provided with a manner of bedding cubicle within which you can lie down behind drawn curtains.  Nice!  A Brit couple and I crack jokes at the sleeping arrangements, themselves having been confined to the very low-ceilinged coffin-like confines of the rear end of the bus with another couple.  I’m not smirking for too long though as the pretty ‘bus hostess’ soon informs me that my space “for two people” and I’m duly joined by my sleeping partner for the trip, a young Lao lad.  All hopes of pretty lady of the nation soon dashed.

Husband and wife ... my ferryman across the water.
  Hey you have to be careful peeps.  It’s against Lao law to sleep with a Lao woman outside of marriage and even escorting a female Lao friend home of an evening (as a ‘farang‘ or foreigner) can be cause for major trouble… so behave boys!

One thing and another, I actually only grab about an hours sleep through the night.  Deposited, bleary eyed at 7.00am in Pakse, I immediately purchase (as many others do to) an onward ticket for the 8.00am bus further south down Route 13 to Champusak.  Well actually, everyone but me’s cracking on much further south but I really, really want to detour to Champusak to take in the magnificent World Heritage listed Wat Phu Champusak temple complex and ruins.  I am therefore unceremoniously woken (yep, Jane Austen on the morning bus soon got me finally dozing!) an hour later, and plonked on a motorbike taxi ( “Oh boy, this’ll wake me up!” ) to a pier upon the Mekong.

  Here I negotiate 10,000 Kip (75p) with a bloke to skiff me across to the far bank and Champusak town.  He actually has to go in search of the Long Tail engine, his little daughter takes it upon herself to assist in the initial propulsion of the tiny, super-shallow skiff boat that practically capsizes if I turn to talk or lean and take a photo!

Strolling (& falling) up the sandy west bank of the Mekong I haven’t a Scooby-Doo exactly where I am or where I’m to go but I stagger up and along onto a main road of sorts.  Here I bump into Aiden (Limmerick, Ireland) and together we grab a sawngthaew to a relatively cheap guesthouse.  30,000 kip (£2.80).  The place has an impressively large balcony restaurant area banking directly over the impressive north to south swathe of the Mekong.

  A much needed late breakfast is consumed and a sawngthaew booked for 14.00 to take us to Wat Phu Champusak.

Wat Phu Champusak  I am very excited about.  It’s old.  Very old in parts.  Dating back as far as the mid 5th Century AD, although as with layers of cultural history and architecture it has been added to and repaired many times over the centuries.  It’s principle extant remains date from between the 9th to the 12th Century AD and reflect the Khmer architectural stylisations of the Angkor empire.  It serves as a perfect appetizer for that ultimate feast of temple-magnificence, Angkor Wat in Cambodia, where I hope to be in no more than a weeks time!

The entrance fee is 30,000 kip and the tickets acquired inside what looks to have been a very interesting museum.

(Champasak) Muju [www.mujuworld.co.uk]
  Sadly one of the constant trade-offs of company on The Road is the constant watering down of your engagement with the history and context of what you have come to see (and photograph to near meaningless death).  It comes as little surprise to me how few people (often including myself when with others) take the time to stop and learn a little before ogling these sights of splendour and mystery.  Whilst I don’t ask him, I get the impression Aid wants to get to the main attraction so we head on out and I’m afraid I cannot educate you much as to the site as a result of this.  Other than to note that the site in origin is of Hindu foundation and dedicated to the god Shiva, although since the 13th Century was converted to the use of Buddhism.
  To this end various Buddha statues now inhabit the main sanctuary building of the temple’s 75 metre plus high final plateau whilst all over the temple sights it is stone-carved Shiva lingam that constantly recall the true origins of the Temple.

Wat Phu Champusak is a fantastic temple complex for the fusion of ancient, often intricately carved stone and brick ruin it presents along with the stunning natural scenery.  A couple of large manmade rectangular reservoirs or ’baray’ sit at the eastern extremity of the complex at ground level whilst white-blossomed frangipani trees grow up through and around the temple flagstones at all of its 6 to 7 terraced tiers as the temple builds its way up the natural hill flank of Phu Kao.  These lend beautiful compositional touches to the craggy stone ascent.

View of the layout of Wat Phu Champasak
  Nature reclaiming and softening mans impositions once again.

A vertiginous, spectacularly uneven 75 metre stone staircase brings you to the upper terrace of the temple and the views back down over the whole temple site are quite magnificent.  It’s a pleasure for Aid and I to just sit and catch our breath and chew the fat in such resplendent surrounds.  A good number of Lao women and their daughters mill around up here crafting and selling small banana leaf and marigold-studded little ‘stupa’ shaped offerings for Buddha.

The sun has been falling all this while behind Phu Kao and a large shadow is slowly moving east below us, cast by the hill, and swallowing the parts of the temple sight it so recently bathed on beautiful evening gold bit by bit by bit.

Mekong ferryman
  Time to descend and relieve our poor tuk-tuk driver who’s been waiting for us the best part of 2-3 hours now! 

Heading back to the guesthouse we tap our tuk-tuk man on the shoulder and get him to drop us off at a bridge we’d ear-marked on the way out, as a point we’d like to walk back from upon our return leg.  This is lovely, strolling along “Sabai-dii”-ing all the locals families and their highly excitable kids.  The words “falang falang” clearly audible from the shady recesses under many a wooden-stilted Lao abode as we walk along the road.  The experience is only mildly marred by the fact that we got off at the wrong bridge… waaaaaay too soon and have quite a spectacularly long walk (eventually through the dark) to get back to home, refreshment and FOOD!

Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Approcahing the Mekoong once more.…
Approcahing the Mekoong once more…
Husband and wife ... my ferryman a…
Husband and wife ... my ferryman …
(Champasak) Muju [www.mujuworld.co…
(Champasak) Muju [www.mujuworld.c…
View of the layout of Wat Phu Cham…
View of the layout of Wat Phu Cha…
Mekong ferryman
Mekong ferryman
We never would have made it across…
We never would have made it acros…
Boy and the Mekong
Boy and the Mekong
Landscaped water at Wat Phu Champa…
Landscaped water at Wat Phu Champ…
The Shiva linga-lined entrance way…
The Shiva linga-lined entrance wa…
Frangipani trees at Wat Phu Champa…
Frangipani trees at Wat Phu Champ…
Stevie on some of the many steps u…
Stevie on some of the many steps …
Many, many beautiful frangipani tr…
Many, many beautiful frangipani t…
This Buddha resides within the upp…
This Buddha resides within the up…
Ooof! that looks painful! :)
"Ooof!" that looks painful! :)
Dusk over the Mekong.
Dusk over the Mekong.
Mekong Fruit
Mekong Fruit
Champasak
photo by: Stevie_Wes