Thursday, April 5, 2012

Embracing the Night in Champasak

I've been forewarned. It would be a challenge to amuse oneself in Champasak when darkness falls across these ancient lands. But since my arrival, I've done nothing but check out nearby temples. I haven't really seen Ban Wat Thong, Champasak's main village.

I have freshened up and taken my time to just watch the Mekong flow by while shades of blues gradually darken to night. I wanted to walk around and profusely thanked my host (the amorous owner of Champasak Guest House) who was surprised when I refused his offer of a bicycle. "But it's free," he insisted. Otherwise, bikes are rented to a measly 20,000 kip a day ($2.50). I preferred walking. I didn't want the hassle of leaving my bike while I am gallivanting.

I wanted to check out Wat Thong which is home to the remains of 3 royalties, but I also realize that it was late. I passed by Lao Development Bank where money could be changed as well as empty-looking guesthouses. The highway in front of Wat Thong was being paved so mounts of pebbles parade. I was able to sneak inside a temple, making my way from the backdoor. I was trespassing, but there's something vaguely exciting about the deed. Aside from a Golden Buddha, the small temple was sparse and dusty, garbage scattered on the floor. The main prayer hall beside this building was shut so I'd probably get to see it in the morning.

Back at the village's main road, I passed by Inthira Hotel and Restaurant, which has wifi. But aside from looking classy and expensive, there was no one there but a French couple starting their dinner. It was 6 PM. Lonely Planet mentioned the town's lone internet cafe, but I didn't see it, or was just not interested to go online.


At an even darker part of the dark, I saw an interesting temple - Wat Amath! I went closer and saw the door wide open. Inside were novice monks and one elderly monk. They were chanting repeatedly - and the sound swayed inside my head like fragrant coffee, like a delectable dish. I was transfixed and sat by the stairs for 20 minutes just listening to the hypnotic cadence of their chant. It would be one of my favorite moments in this trip.

Dusk in Wat Thong

Buddha inside one of Wat Thong's temple

Inthira Hotel and Restaurant, one of Champasak's spiffy hotels (above and below).

I decided to have my dinner at a different restaurant. It didn't even matter if a restaurant has a riverside view or not because there's none to be had. Mekong was bathed in darkness. Inthira Hotel and Restaurant looked expensive so I skipped that. I saw Saythong Restaurant and found a table by the river. I was there for the gentlest breeze.


Four tables across mine was the septuagenarian Swedish guy I was able to have a conversation earlier in the day. Though he was friendly (He even thanked me: "Thanks for talking to me," he said - which should underline the gravity of solitariness to be had in this seeming ghost town.) I didn't feel like continuing a conversation with him. He's in Champasak for his visa-run from Thailand. He praised the Thai's for "being open" and this conversation soon translated into a farang's propensity to sleep with as much Thais as they can - "because they somehow hope the farang would marry them or at the very least, give them an allowance." How can others look down on the people of a country who welcomes them as visitors?

I am not usually judgmental nor am I fond of those who see more destitute countries as a haven for - excuse my French - "welcoming pussies" - and even of penises for that matter. This conversation evolved into my being a Filipino ("You're the first Filipino backpacker I've ever met," he said), my proficiency of the Queen's language, and how his Swedish compatriots are turning their itinerant ideas on my country (Bangkok's still flooded). Heaven forbid! So people could take advantage of the wallowing poverty of a community?

I ordered my food and carefully sneaked out of the restaurant. There were stores selling odd stuff. I bought a postcard and a bottle of water. I have considered what I could do back at my guest house; it doesn't even have a television - and it wasn't even 8PM yet!
I walked back to the roundabout fountain which is an odd reference since it doesn't look like one. In fact, it's just an elevated platform with a light post at the center and 4 petal-like structures on four sides. This was a relic of a royal past. Supposedly.

After a while, I decided to call it a night. It had been an interesting day arriving from Pakse, finding Ban Wat Thong and my guesthouse, visiting temples, fraternizing with a sex tourist and watching the Mekong at dusk. I couldn't complain.

This is the Eye in the Sky!

Wat Amath and its chanting monks (1st photo above and photo below)

A store selling a variety of items. I bought a coke at 5,000 kip (0.63) and a bottle of water at 3,000 kip ($0.38)

From this store, I bought one postcard.

Fried chicken meat with vegetable and a rice at 15,000 kip ($1.90) at Saythong Restaurant.

Entrance of Saythong Restaurant which is beside the Mekong.

A painting on the wall at Saythong Restaurant shows Wat Phu Champasak and Khone Pha Phaeng, said to be the longest riverine cascade in Southeast Asia.

Champasak Restaurant beside my guesthouse

Time to lay my head to sleep at the Champasak Guesthouse.


NRIGirl said...

Somehow your usual cheerfulness is missing in this post. It almost felt like someone else wrote or you are just too tired.

eye in the sky said...

@ NRIGirl:

You're right. The piece is a little too dark... but that's how the night time experience went. It felt solitary, but not unhappy. :)

Twin said...

Food looks good!

Trotter said...

Hi Eye! Hope you’re having a Happy Easter! Sorry for the absence, but things are ever more difficult here...

Wondeful post! And lovely pictures...

Blogtrotter Two is now somewhere in the Virgin Islands... Enjoy and have a great week ahead!!!

eye in the sky said...

@ Twin:

Food was ok. :)

eye in the sky said...

@ Trotter:

Thanks. Happy Easter too! :)