Day 23 - Champasak

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February 9th 2018
Published: February 9th 2018
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Being the journeymen we are, we sign up for another Wat Tour; What's that you say another Wat? Yes, apparently this became a world heritage site in 2008 and was built in 10th century when this area was under Khmer rule. It is a much revered site by Laotians, older than Angkor Wat. It sits at the foot of the holy mountain called Phou Kao and was identified in ancient time with the Linga, the phallic symbol of Shiva, a Hindu God. We are assured by several visitors we have talked to that it is well worth the visit.

After breakfast, we take our VIP mini bus for the about 1 hours drive to Champasak, which takes us over the Mekong via the Japanese Friendship bridge and then along the Chinese toll road which is straight as any Roman road. (Have to comment here that Leo says that had the bridge been built by the Chinese..............). Again, little traffic other than water buffaloes and kamikaze chickens and cattle, which are a constant hazard.

Our 8-seater bus consisted of two French couples who were using it as a means of transport to Champansak itself, plus us and one other English couple of similar age who were signed up for the same morning tour, returning to Pakse later in the day. On arrival, we four agree with our driver that a two-hour visit to the temple will be sufficient, although we could have as long as we wanted. We are all fairly able for the trek.

A small entrance fee of 50,000kip pp paid, (£5pp in real money) and off we go. Heading towards the straight track leading to Wat Phu, a modern electric bus stops, sweeps us up and delivers us at the lake, immediately in front of the first tier of steps. After taking photos of the lake, where we see a herd of water Buffalo, we take the wooden constructed staircase to tier two. Here we revert to the rough uneven steps leading to tier three. The ground is fairly spread with animal dung, and we hazard a guess as to the naming of Wat Phu (Schoolboy Leo).

Things start to get tricky here, as previously concealed by mature frangipani trees, we now look up and see a series of extremely steep, uneven and very narrow steps. With constant encouragement from Leo, Paula makes slow but steady progress upwards. Although Paula is still mindful that we have to descend later with no proper hand rails or support. (Yes, a real Wimp with heights). We identify that there is a sloping grassy path down the hill side that may help in this respect, but on the next tier that option disappears, to be replaced by steep walled terracing. Oh well, we had gone too far to turn back. Paula conquers her fears and we arrive at the summit warm, but unscathed.

The views here are very good, but again the annual burning really impacts that feature. There is a natural spring, which is said to be the very reason for the establishment of the Wat. Now it is a generator fed cycle, but atmospheric none the less. The source of the spring apparently comes from the holy Phu Kao mountain which is supposed to resemble a Linga, the phallic symbol of the Hindu God shiva ? The actual Temple is very diminished by weather and time ,but we feel the views worth the effort and the lower parts of the site are in far better repair. Descending slowly (extremely slowly) we arrive at base camp. Paula is relieved and elated by overcoming her fears, albeit with an adrenaline rush to the knees, which continue to shake and spasm for a while after).

We are surprised at the small numbers of tourists here. We can count them on two hands, a very bizarre contrast to the Cambodian sites we visited last week, which only adds to the tranquility of the visit (and the fewer to witness Paula's fearful crablike descent, not a pretty sight). Our fellow passengers, a couple from London, pass us going up at the base, we have not seen them from exiting the bus, they had read their tickets more fully than us, which direct you first to the well maintained museum before using the buses, that tell you the history of the rediscovery of the Wat and have some of the better preserved statues and carvings.

We visit at the end of our climb, and are amazed to see sepia photos of intrepid French explorers opening up the province, riding on Elephants, and gun parties, less than 100 years ago. The whole area, including the Bolevan Plateau, had been off the radar from even the local Khmer, for hundreds of years.

Back on the bus, we ask the driver to drop all four of us at the end of the Japanese bridge, so we can visit massive local market. Unfortunately, we are so engaged in conversation, we missed our requested stop and end up somewhere mid-town, say our farewells, and head towards our hotel area for lunch and a beer.Replete, we have a shower and a short nap before revisiting our Panorama restaurant, 6th floor of our hotel to have another great meal and complete this blog. Sadly the pollution again restricts any photographs or decent Sunset pictures. Savannakhet tomorrow. Flight not until 2pm, so lazy morning planned.

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