Saturday, July 19, 2008


Phou Si (aka Chomsy Hill) is just a few blocks from my guesthouse. It’s an easy walk from most of the restaurants and hotels from Sisavangvong. Just across the museum, you cross the street and see a flight of stairs that takes you to the upper slopes. Wikitravel indicates that the best time to climb the hill is when you’re watching the sunset. I preferred braving the sun, going up when the sun is high. Besides, there are huge Chompasak (Calachuchi) trees giving you shelter as you ascend. It is also the best time to see the breathtaking expanse of Luang Prabang. It is not an easy climb regardless of the time of day. It is an arduous 328 steps to the summit. Before reaching the last 50 steps or so, you have to pay 20,000 kip as entrance fee to the temples above. I was out of breath. My shirt was drenched with perspiration.
The temple above was nothing spectacular, but the view of Luang down below is. The Mekong and the Kham snake gracefully as they cut through the land mass of the city. A bridge crosses the river. In the distant view, a gleaming temple looms large and proud. I asked the lady selling drinks what the name of the glowing temple that I could see from there. She didn’t understand me. I found out later – from my readings – that it’s the Vipassana Temple and Park, a Buddhist meditation center. I even had directions on how to visit the temple (which is, to take the road going to the airport then turn right before reaching the bridge, and travel on a dirt road). From the top, you can head down to the other side of the hill where another temple awaits. This one has allegedly preserved buddha’s “huge” footprints – and, boy! That was a HUGE footprint!

The view of Phou Si (Chomsy Hill) from the National Museum.

328 steps to climb…

Sisavangvong Road down below.

24-m high That Chomsi, erected 1804, clearly visible from most ground level points in the city.

Kham River. A glittering Vipassana Temple and Park can be seen from the mountains.

Vipassanna Temple – a Buddhist meditation center.


Luang Prabang has numerous temples. My Lao friend Somsak told me that each temple has varying number of monks. Some temples have more than a hundred, while others have 10. I’m way past appreciating every single temple I see. I have been desensitized. I’ve seen too many temples to be enamored by every single temple that exists. It’s like our churches in the Philippines. Some deserve to be photographed, but several others don’t. A leisurely visit would suffice. One of my favorites is Wat Xieng Thong. If you look at the map, near the northern tip of the peninsula where Mekong meets Kham River (the tip of the “thumb”), there stands Luang Prabang’s most magnificent temple- Wat Xieng Thong. I reached Xieng Thong as it was starting to drizzle. Madilim ang langit at umaambon. There weren’t a lot of tourists in the vicinity. It was a sleepy area. The compound of the temple is a peaceful abode. The main temple has an ornate pinkish hue. The few monks were sitting nearby. After checking out the interiors of the temples, I headed to the west entrance and walked down the flight of stairs leading to the river.


Wow. I was once again beside the Mekong. In Saigon, people have to pay $20 and travel for two hours to get near the Mekong. Now I am standing before it. There were more concrete steps to take before I finally reached the water. It was high and there was a raging flow going south. Just further north is where the Mekong meets the Kham River. Drizzle has turned into a steady drop of rain water. I didn’t care. I sat at the last dry flight of stair. I hunched forward and dipped my hand on the river. Murky. Haha. An Australian couple who earlier made the rounds of the Wat Xieng Thong compound joined me. Nainggit ata! I just nodded and smiled. We were surely getting wet, but it was a nice feeling, sitting there.

I was watching a little blue boat sail against the flow of the Mekong. It sailed on from the raging stream and bravely made its way towards the shore. It maneuvered and turned around, and headed towards us. “Ride, meester?” God! He sailed against the flow to offer us a ride?! Kawawa naman. I had to say no. So did the Australian couple. He silently left. That’s what I like about the Lao. You only need to say NO once - and they leave you alone. That doesn’t happen in Vietnam. Or Cambodia.

Wat Xieng Thong, the city’s oldest temple, with its ordination hall constructed 1560. A conqueror used this as his headquarters during the 1887 invasion. During which time, most of the city was destroyed.

Wat Xieng Thong’s pink hues.

Part of the complex of Wat Xieng Thong, located at the back of the main temple, just beside the library building.

The little blue boat that could…

It braved against the flow of the Mekong, then maneuvered and turned around.

…then offered us a ride.

Wat Vataram – off the beaten path.

Wat Vixoun with That Mak Mo

That Mak Mo

Random Expenditures:

· Entrance to Phou Si (Chomsy Hill) – $2.50 or 20,000 kip or PhP113.75
· Entrance to Vat Xieng Tong –$2.50 or 20,000 kip


Anonymous said...

hi po. i really enjoy your blogsite. sana tagalog ang sulat para mas accesible to the younger readers. Project ko is to save up for Laos. Ang ganda. Even my pamangkins are enjoying the photos. Sana tagalog para mas ma enjoy basahin ng mga kids.Thanks.

escape said...

wow! ganda nga ng laos specially luang prabang.

eye in the sky said...

@ tristan: hello, t. much as i wanna write in the vernacular, i'm not very comfortable with writing in tagalog. barok eh. but more importantly, on an average, 70% of those who visit the site are from out of the Philippines. pag tinagalog ko yan, i'd alienate the hits. in fact as i write this, only one of the 10 last hits come from the philippines. sa 110 na dumaan today, almost 77 ang di pinoy. i also doubt if i have a readership below 15 years of age coz i am word-heavy. but thanks to you and your pamangkins. i hope you can visit Laos soon. let me know if i can advise you on travel arrangements/faq's. id be glad to help or offer my 2 cents worth.

@ dong: oo nga, i found laos quite spectacular. hope it's ok i added your site on my bloglist. took me awhile. not good with these techie stuff and the last time i tried making a list, i accidentally deleted 2 blog articles.

pamatayhomesick said...

san ka nga naman makakakita ng di mo na kailangan bumyahe,at maranasan makapunta sa ibang lugar.dito! sa blog nato..:)

eye in the sky said...

@ ever: salamat ng madami. i like documenting my travels kasi para di ko makalimutan every detail. thanks for dropping by again. :->

andiboi said...

thanks tsong! appreciate it that you've read my blogs hehe... hopefully I can travel again within the year, if budget permits me... kung di Hanoi to Laos e baka mag India na ko... i'll start from South to North by train... yun daw da best! not in the near future though...
safe travels man!

eye in the sky said...

i dont wanna jinx it this early but i think i am heading that way before the year ends. i get tingly thinking about the itinerary. :->