Vientiane - Pakse - Champasak - Sipandone (4000 Islands)

Khong Island Travel Blog

 › entry 19 of 27 › view all entries
Digging into our breakfast boxes.

"If something can go wrong, it will go wrong."

Murphy's law

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'.

Leaving Vientiane ...
That must be us. Strange enough this guy spoke hardly any English, which is weird for a guide. Turns out that he was the driver. But where was the guide? We assumed that we would see him later today. However, after leaving the airport the driver said 'Tad Fane?!'. Hold on, that was where we'd supposed to go in 2 days. Originally we would indeed go to Tad Fane today but because the resort was fully booked it had been switched with Siphandon. Seemingly either Khiri Travel hadn't informed their local agent or something else must have gone wrong. This was the first incident of Murphy's Law.

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.

... and arriving in Champasak province.
The brown stuff was excellent indeed at this place, which is hardly a surprise since some of the world's best coffee is made on the nearby Bolaven Plateau.
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.

Arriving in Pakse.
To get there however, we needed to cross the Mekong by ferry at Ban Muang. The ferry normally waits until it's full and the last one was just leaving (Murphy's Law example 2). We strolled along the food stalls and Paul and I bought a small sticky rice basket as a souvenir. Shot, who turned out to be another good-humored guide, also showed us how to judge a good fighting cock.

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.

Khao Laam !

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.

The ferry to Champasak.
From here a road used to lead to Angkor in relatively nearby Cambodia. This part probably dates from the 6th century. Exhaustingly steep steps (especially in today's hot weather) lead upwards to the 11th century sanctuary where a small temple is found where a Shiva lingam would be bathed in holy water from a spring behind the sanctuary. The sanctuary now contains several Buddha statues and a fortunetelling shrine, which Paul, Ad and I of course had to use again.

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.

Judging a fighting cock.

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).

Washing up in the Mekong.
;-)

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.

Can I order some fresh Mekong fish ?
Seriously, we were incredibly corny by the time the ferry brought us to Don Khong. It's probably our sense of adventure and recently acquired spirit of 'baw pen yang' that made us take it all lightly. After finally arriving at our hotel well past 19:00 hours we first took a much needed shower and headed for the hotel's restaurant. Although recommended in the Lonely Planet this certainly did not make our top 5, or top 10 for that matter. Food was not as it was described and the banana flambé, prepared with lao-lao whiskey, can only be described as disgusting (Murphy's Law example 8). But even this was enough of a reason for some good laughs.

Biedjee says:
things going wrong usually adds to making your trip special (either in a good or bad way...)
Posted on: Nov 29, 2009
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Digging into our breakfast boxes.
Digging into our breakfast boxes.
Leaving Vientiane ...
Leaving Vientiane ...
... and arriving in Champasak prov…
... and arriving in Champasak pro…
Arriving in Pakse.
Arriving in Pakse.
Khao Laam !
Khao Laam !
The ferry to Champasak.
The ferry to Champasak.
Judging a fighting cock.
Judging a fighting cock.
Washing up in the Mekong.
Washing up in the Mekong.
Can I order some fresh Mekong fish…
Can I order some fresh Mekong fis…
Bowl of foe (noodle soup) on the f…
Bowl of foe (noodle soup) on the …
Being pulled in by a second ferry.
Being pulled in by a second ferry.
Laughing away our misfortune.
Laughing away our misfortune.
Arriving at Mekongs westbank.
Arriving at Mekong's westbank.
Lower section of Wat Phu.
Lower section of Wat Phu.
Lower section of Wat Phu.
Lower section of Wat Phu.
Wat Phus lower section.
Wat Phu's lower section.
Wat Phus causeway to the middle s…
Wat Phu's causeway to the middle …
View from Wat Phus middle section.
View from Wat Phu's middle section.
Moving up towards Wat Phus Top Se…
Moving up towards Wat Phu's Top S…
Moving up towards Wat Phus Top Se…
Moving up towards Wat Phu's Top S…
Baking rice pancakes.
Baking rice pancakes.
Wat Phus sanctuary at the Top Sec…
Wat Phu's sanctuary at the Top Se…
Wat Phus sanctuary at the Top Sec…
Wat Phu's sanctuary at the Top Se…
Stone carvings at Wat Phus sanctu…
Stone carvings at Wat Phu's sanct…
Stone carvings at Wat Phus sanctu…
Stone carvings at Wat Phu's sanct…
Stone carvings at Wat Phus sanctu…
Stone carvings at Wat Phu's sanct…
Stone carvings at Wat Phus sanctu…
Stone carvings at Wat Phu's sanct…
Wat Phus sanctuary at the Top Sec…
Wat Phu's sanctuary at the Top Se…
Inside Wat Phus sanctuary.
Inside Wat Phu's sanctuary.
Fortunetelling inside Wat Phus sa…
Fortunetelling inside Wat Phu's s…
Wat Phus spring and yoni.
Wat Phu's spring and yoni.
View from Wat Phus Top Section.
View from Wat Phu's Top Section.
View from Wat Phus Top Section.
View from Wat Phu's Top Section.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
At the Khon Phapheng falls.
Car trouble ...
Car trouble ...
... while night falls over Siphand…
... while night falls over Siphan…
Finally on the ferry to Don Khong.
Finally on the ferry to Don Khong.
Khong Island
photo by: edsander