Where We Be
Champasak, Laos
Look closely and you can see an elephant carved into this massive
boulder. The trunk and tusks are carved into the near corner.
We stayed at Bassa Muangkham Guesthouse and experienced what was without a doubt the hardest bed we've ever
slept on. You could knock on the mattress like it was wood. On the plus side, the place had AC and Mekong river views.
The quiet town of Champasak is about 8 km (5 mi) away from Wat Phou. A tuk-tuk or songthaew should run you about $2 per
person each way. Temple entry is $4 per person (or maybe an extra dollar or two if you arrive before the official opening at 8 am).
The scary monster in the middle must be the stuff of Khmer nightmares
Detailed carvings over the door lintels are definitely worth a look
This Buddha inside the temple seems almost ridiculously happy
Here is the temple itself, small but picturesque in its ruined glory. A Buddha statue sits in
front of it, draped in gold beneath a thoughtfully provided umbrella to ward off the sun.
This is the view from the top on a misty morning, looking down on the two palaces
and the artificial lake (or baray). The visitor center is on the far side of the lake.
Just love these worn and weather-beaten steps!
Now it's time to start climbing! The stone path is wonderfully jumbled and ancient feeling,
and the flowering trees to either side make it feel like you're entering a secret domain.
We visited at 7 am to beat the heat and crowds -- a great decision. After rounding
the artificial lake, you follow this ancient stone path leading straight to the temple.
Before heading uphill you can visit two small palaces on either side of the
stone path. (No one knows what they were really for, so "palaces" will do.)
The same temple from the other side. Don't you think ruins
look more ancient and evocative in black and white?
Yikes! Archaeologists suggest this carving of a crocodile may have served as the site of an
annual human sacrifice in pre-Angkorian times. It's just a short walk away from the main temple.
Wat Phou is the reason to come to Champasak
in southern Laos. Located 8 km southwest of
town, it's a pre-Angkorian temple built by the
Khmer from the 6th to 12th centuries AD. Most
of it was built before the big temples at Angkor
in Cambodia, but the similarities are obvious –
the same naga sculptures with multiple snake
heads, the same detailed Hindu story-carvings
over door lintels, and the same architectural
flourishes. But what really makes Wat Phou
special, in our opinion, is the setting. It’s
located in a lush valley with a high mountain
rising behind it. In fact the name Wat Phou
means “mountain temple.” You climb steep
stone stairs to get to the main temple, which is
small: you can walk around it in a minute. The
stairs are overarched by lovely flowering trees
(at least in March), making the climb worthwhile
if you take it slow and go early when it's cooler.
Wat Phou, the "Mountain Temple," is located at the base of Mount Lingaparvata.
From the visitor center it's a pleasant walk around the lake to get to the site.
And no wonder -- look at all these fine flower offerings!
Behind the temple is a low cave with a constant drip of water that is
considered sacred since it comes from the peak of Lingaparvata
We did most of our dining at nearby Inthira Hotel (left; not our photo), which offered tasty food and wifi. We also tried lap
chicken (spicy minced chicken, a Lao specialty) at a local restaurant (right) with fine breezes coming off the Mekong.