It was time. The raison d’etre for my South Laos journey should culminate with a main event. It wasn’t Don Det for me. In fact, the rustic party scene on a serene riverine island didn’t interest me at all. I had set my sights on Wat Phu Champasak, an ancient Khmer religious complex located west of the Mekong on a sun kissed region of what others call the “Ancient City” in Champasak.
The protruding part of the mountain (second peak above) is a natural lingam to the faithful. It has made some people refer to it as Mount Penis.
Ticket Building. At the opposite side is the Exhibition Hall. Wat Phu is open daily from 8 AM to 4:30 PM.
Some of the displays at the museum.
I rushed back to Somphone and jumped behind him so we could head west for the temples. The complex spans 84 hectares. Getting this ride to where I could start my walk up the foot of the hill helped. The 3 minute ride was pleasant as we passed by a moat – a lake, then the bike parked where it wasn’t allowed to go further. It was going to be a pleasant ascent; uneven yet pleasant nonetheless. The way to the Sanctuary up the slope of the mountain went through a runway of sorts, symmetrically placed like a church aisle as it heads up the main temple. I passed by dilapidated buildings (North and South Palace, also called Quadrangular Pavilions) on either side of the runway. There’s a Nandin Temple undergoing renovation effort by Italian and Japanese groups.
Baray (moat) - ceremonial pond
A walk towards the ornamental archway (gopura)
The promenade (walkway) - a sala is built at each side by Chao Boun Oum. Stone markers have been erected.
Quadrangular Pavilions at either side of the promenade
Slabs of stones make the stairs to ascend to the middle level
Dvarapala stands before another climb. It has been worshipped as King Kammatha, the mythical builder of the temple.
More slabs constitute the stairs to the next terrace.
The main temple – a Shiva-lingam Sanctuary has a relatively contemporary Buddha inside. Smaller Buddhas scatter under it. Meanwhile, at the back of the main temple, you could walk further until you reach the foot of the cliff. There is a non-descript “altar” in a cave-like space at the foot of the hill where “holy water” drips on a square-shaped well. It’s easy to think that this sacred spring may eventually cease to exist in the coming years; what with its miniscule volume dwindling fast.
The Shiva-lingam Sanctuary (the main temple)
A colorful Buddha - another Dvarapala, perhaps - stands beside the Sanctuary
Cliff where sacred waters flow (above and below)
Cave under the cliff with an altar and a sacred spring (below) from the waters of Phu Pasak
Miniscule volume of flow from the sacred spring.
Gigantic boulders characterize the slope. Friendly children (below) pose for posterity. I was asking them to smile and rabidly they followed instructions. :)
On the way back, we passed by sleepy bans (villages) that usually perk up during Wat Phu Festival. I asked Somphone to stop at a temple – called Wat Phonsaoe (fon-sa-we) - by the roadside where I saw monks digging away. I stepped down and went up the temple. The monks were oblivious to my presence, but I just wanted to see the main prayer hall. Though lavishly adorned with offerings inside, the hallway needed tidying up. Most tourists choose to ignore this temple midway between Wat Phu (also Wat Phou) and Ban Wat Thong. I, on the other hand, felt elated for the privilege.
Monks at work