Vientiane - Pakse - Champasak - Sipandone (4000 Islands)
Khong Island Travel Blog› entry 19 of 27 › view all entries
"If something can go wrong, it will go wrong."
Today we'd leave Vientiane behind and would head for the south of Laos. We woke at four o'clock in the morning, collected our breakfast boxes at the reception and hopped in the van. Our loyal enthusiastic driver that had accompanied us since Luang Prabang was already waiting for us with a huge smile on his face. Driving to the airport only took a minute or 10 and after saying goodbye and tipping our driver we checked in and had a couple of coffee's before taking off at half past 6.
So far so good, but this started a day that can only be described as an excellent example of Murphy's law. After getting our luggage we noticed somebody holding a sign 'Khiri Travel - Party Sand - 4 pers'.
After talking to Khiri Travel they acknowledged the mistake and asked us to grab a coffee somewhere; they'd call back in 10 minutes. The driver took us to what turned out to be one of the best coffee places in Pakse, the Delta Coffee.
Khiri called us back and informed us that a guide would be with us in a manner of minutes, and indeed after less than 10 minutes our new guide, the 29 year old Shot, turned up. Amazing how fast Khiri handled this. After exchanging schedules and papers all was clear and away we went southwards.
On our way to Siphandon we would stop at Champasak. This former capital of one of the three kingdoms of Laos is really not interesting in any way, but the nearby Wat Phu temple is. It is an offshoot of the old Angkor empire of the Khmer and a highlight in Laos.
It was a warm day today, so it was good to finally get aboard the ferry to the west bank. Paul and I bought a noodle soup from a woman on the boat and all seemed to be going well ... until the ferry broke down. The motor stopped working and we were floating free on the Mekong (Murphy's Law example 3). Fortunately one of the other ferry boats came to pull his colleague into the landing place. A short drive through Champasak then brought us to Wat Phu.
We first visited the museum where several statues and carvings from the temple were displayed before proceeding to the temple itself. The way the temple was built is quite remarkable since it stretches up the Phu Pasak mountain range for 1.400 meters, with the sanctuary at the highest end. The whole architectual style was very similar to the other Khmer temples you'll find at Angkor in Cambodia. It was added to Unesco's World Heritage list in 2001. First worship at this site took place in the 5th century and as with many Angkor era temples you'll find a combination of Hinduism (with lingams and carvings of Vishnu and Shiva) and Buddhism (with Buddha statues) at Wat Phu. The full temple consists of six terraces and three main levels, imitating the journey to the heavens. At the lowest level lies a large ceremonial pond and a causeway to the second level where two pavilions are located.
At the top of the temple, near the sanctuary we noticed a food stall with a coolbox. Time for some Beerlao, which was more than welcome in this hot weather. We also were asked if we wanted to try baking small rice pancakes, which Mieke gladly did. As you can imagine we also ate most of them when they were ready. We also enjoyed the marvellous views over the 1,4 km long Wat Phu from this top.
We had a fine lunch by the Mekong at the Dokchampa restaurant and our return to the east bank with the ferry was uneventful. So was our drive to Siphandon, if you don't count the dangerous swerve the driver made to avoid running over a crossing goose. Just before sunset we arrived at the Khon Phapeng waterfalls, which were breathtaking to say the least. At these falls the Mekong crashes down 15 meters from different sides before flowing into Cambodia. Locals believe that the falls are a 'spirit trap' that catches the bad spirits that come floating down the river. Bad spirits or not, the site was certainly impressive and after climbing some of the rocks by the river for a good view we moved to the nearby viewing point at a deserted restaurant. Unfortunately they didn't have Beerlao and we had to settle for the less popular and more expensive Heineken (Murphy's Law example 4).
The sun had gone down and it was time to drive some 20km back to the Don Khong island where we'd be staying for two nights. But shortly after leaving the falls ... the car broke down (Murphy's Law example 5). The motor had overheated and when Ad helped the driver to fix the problem it seemed like it had completely run out of cooling water. The sun had set and by the time the car was save and sound again it was really dark since there's no street lighting in these area's of Laos. We initially missed the turn to Don Khong (Murphy's Law example 6) and when we arrived at the ferry landing ... the ferry was just leaving (Murphy's Law example 7).
You might think that all of this really pissed us off, but we actually took it with a good sense of humour.