Laos - Day 25 - Wat Phu Temple
May 26, 2012
|We woke up early to get a good head start to the day, and what a beautiful sunny morning it was. Last night we found a local driver who agreed to take us into Champasak for each. It was just a little over half an hours drive to the Wat Phu temple, our driver took the back roads avoiding crossing over a "toll" bridge into Champasak, saving us both money and time. We had a few hours to look around the temple grounds, once done we were to be taken across the river by a small vehicle ferry, from which we would be driven to a junction where we could catch a bus or tuk-tuk into the 4000 Si Phan Don Islands. If we weren't able to catch a ride in half an hours time our driver would take us to the islands for $650,000.
l The religious complex of ‘Vat Phu’ is of Khmer architecture and Hindu religion and is situated at the foot of a hill. The summit, the Phu Kao, immediately commands ones attention because of its shape, identified in ancient times with the linga, the phallic symbol of Shiva, from which originated its ancient name, Lingaparvata, and its reputation as a sacred hill. The permanent spring, at the foot of the cliffs, is probably one of the main reasons that induced ancient rulers of the area to establish a Shivaist sanctuary there.
The ‘Ancient City, measures approximately 2kms x 1.8km and has a double enclosure of earthen walls. This city lost its role as political capital when the founding dynasties extended their rule over the whole Khmer territory. They moved their political centers with them finally establishing their capital at Angkar, which become known as Angkor. Today, Wat Phu is an active Buddhist sanctuary and every year, at the time of the February full moon, a pilgrimage is held which attracts many worshippers.
This ancient city consists of an ancient road, four terraces, one sanctuary, several staircases, a natural spring and three rocks containing; Buddha’s Foot print, a Crocodile and an Elephant - all sacred prayer areas on the grounds.
At the pay counter they tried to swindle us in paying $15,000 each for their golf cart service plus the $30,000 entrance fee which would have made it $45,000. We knew the entrance fee amount and caught on right away and declined their "shuttle" service to the temple base.
It was a lovely walk onto the temple grounds, the sun was getting hot and the views from a top were gorgeous. We took our time looking around, we spotted a beautiful snake in the grass (literally - LOL) who had a brilliant blue sheen to him in certain positions in the sun. We watched him slither around for a long time, Jason captured some great photos of the snake, at one point it slithered onto the top of a nearby rock and posed for us while we took pictures.
The temple, for us reminded us a lot of Angkor Wat, however much smaller. Chris, Sue, Angie and Becky have yet to go to Cambodia but it is the next destination spot for them so this is just a small taster of what is yet to come. We were able to explore the temple and grounds in 2.5hours, we had left our big backpacks with our driver to watch for us while we were gone. We jumped back into the back of the truck and quickly made our way to the river to catch the ferry across. We ended up waiting for about 45 minutes before the ferry came to board us. During this time the price to cross was constantly in negotiations, the more passengers that arrived the cheaper it got for us. Upon our arrival we were the only vehicle there, which made the fare to go across way to much so we told the driver we refused to pay that amount as he had promised a smaller, nominal fee to begin with. Lucky for us and for him more vehicles arrived and the price became cheaper for us to cross.
Once transported at the junction crossing, we entered into a restaurant to sit down and have a bowl of steaming, vegetable noodle soup. We waited for buses to come our way, hoping to catch one into the 4000 Islands but every local bus that went through was absolutely packed with locals, baggage, animals and parcels. We must have waited for almost an hour and a half, the entire time our driver stayed with us, trying to get us a seat on one of the buses. Finally a tuk-tuk came by, stopped and at first it looked to be too full of locals and their goods but right away an older lady spotted us and smiled and waved us all in. They graciously moved over, making room for all us gringo's and our smaller packs. This ride was one that we are so thankful we decided to get in on.
"Momma" as she called herself, was the older lady that welcomed us on originally, when she smiled all you could see was a mouth full of red teeth. (from all the tobacco she was chewing) Momma was traveling with her daughter and granddaughter, who was absolutely beautiful. The middle isle was full of bags and parcels, some containing fresh fruits and vegetables, clothing, sugar and one sac that had several little baby chickens inside. We went through a rain storm, we had to transfer our large backpacks from the top of the bus, trying to make room for them inside. Momma quickly helped Angie take hold of the straps of a backpack and helped hold onto throughout the rest of our journey. We stopped at one point to let some locals off and we were bombarded by women trying to sell barbequed chicken, frogs and intestines. We captured some great photos of this exciting event, some locals on the truck bought some chicken, ate it while we continued on our way.
Once in Si Phan Don we were dropped off at a local gas station, where we had to walk several hundred meters, by passing road work and down to the waters edge to arrange for a boat ride to the Island of Don Khon. We loaded up our backpacks onto the boat, quickly got in and were finally on our way to find sweet comfort and relaxation for the next few days.
The boat ride took a little over half an hour, traversing the river waters passed the islands of Don Det and Don Khong. We passed several fishermen and local boats, a few tourist boats and many village children jumping into and playing in the river. We were taken first to the boat mans village to look at his huts, sadly they were in very poor condition and just outside his family were cleaning and pounding fresh fish - you can imagine the smell. We voted to go take a look further down the road. We passed many bungalow accommodations, most too expensive but we finally settled on one for $35,000 kip per night.
We settled into our rooms, Sue and Chris were situated right beside Angie and Becky, we were just down a room from them. We found a restaurant to have some supper, lounged around a bit and called it a night as we were all terribly tired from the days journey.