Champasak : Meeting the Khmer at Wat Phu Champasak
Champasak Travel Blog› entry 124 of 268 › view all entries
Hmm. An interesting night bus from Vientienne to Pakse last night. First one Iāve been on where youāre 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. Iām not smirking for too long though as the pretty ābus hostessā soon informs me that my space āfor two peopleā and Iām duly joined by my sleeping partner for the trip, a young Lao lad. All hopes of pretty lady of the nation soon dashed.
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 meās 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 ( āOh boy, thisāll wake me up!ā ) to a pier upon the Mekong.
Strolling (& falling) up the sandy west bank of the Mekong I havenāt a Scooby-Doo exactly where I am or where Iām 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 (Ā£2.80). The place has an impressively large balcony restaurant area banking directly over the impressive north to south swathe of the Mekong.
Wat Phu Champusak I am very excited about. Itās 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. Itās 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.
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 ābarayā 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.
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. Itās 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 āstupaā 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.
Heading back to the guesthouse we tap our tuk-tuk man on the shoulder and get him to drop us off at a bridge weād ear-marked on the way out, as a point weād like to walk back from upon our return leg. This is lovely, strolling along āSabai-diiā-ing all the locals families and their highly excitable kids. The words āfalang falangā 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 bridgeā¦ waaaaaay too soon and have quite a spectacularly long walk (eventually through the dark) to get back to home, refreshment and FOOD!