Around-the-World Adventures travel blog


Wat Phu Champasak (Main Temple)


Offerings to Buddha

Gateway to the Temple

"Linga Line"

Monk cleans stupa

Bathing in the Mekong

Mekong Sunset

Buddhist Monastery

Champasak Monk

Sword Girl

Lao woman at the market

With the smiling faces of Laos people, you would never guess it is renowned for being the most heavily bombed country in the world, much to the fault of the Americans. Luckily for parts of Southern Laos, the bombing saturated the northern territories saving what would come to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of its holiest Buddhist temples -- Wat Phu Champasak.

The modern day village of Champasak is unextraordinary, divided simply by one main paved road. Bordered by the Mekong and surrounding hillsides, most tourists stop only long enough to see Wat Phu Champasak [that's what I did], often having to stay a night until boat/bus transportation becomes available [its true]. Life moves slowly, but there are a few Lao luxuries that leave you wanting. Lao coffee is among them. For less than $0.30 USD the delicacy that is iced coffee, lightened by sweetened condensed milk, is yours. I make it mine several times each day. Another luxury is leisure time. Lao men play cards, women - huddled in generational circles - cook and sell goods at the market, children bath in the Mekong, tourists play the voyeur.

Easy entertainment can be found at the local stupas and various places of Buddhist worship. The Wat Phu is several kilometers outside of the village center, so Buddhist temples appear every 100 meters. Since most men are required to devote between 3 months and one year of their life to a Buddhist monastery, monks come from all walks of life. They can be found (much to the surprise of Westerners) smoking, playing hand-held video games, washing clothes, stripping moss from stupas, restoring ancient shrines, and in the mid-day heat, taking a siesta. In other words, they are just as normal as they are holy.

It is really the Wat Phu Champasak that makes the area worth a visit though. The Khmers, dating back to the 11th and 12th centuries, built the temple to worship the Hindu pantheon of Gods. Few centuries later it would evolve to incorporate Buddhism, locals erecting gold Buddha statues placed at the end of the "Path of Phallic Symbols" (known as linga) honoring Shiva.

However, for all the grandeur of Wat Phu Champasak, I hear it is just a prelude of what is to come at Angkor Wat.

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