Thursday, July 7, 2011

Chilling in Champasak

Champasak has got me hooked. Today I was supposed to get to Pakse, but I woke up this morning, just didn't feel like it and so went back to sleep. What that meant was my morning plans for Wat Phu were pushed to the afternoon.

I had a good day today, woke up late after a solid 13hours of sleep, had a nice cup of Lao coffee (finally satisfied after craving for it for 6 months), spent some time chilling in the hammock and gazing at the Mekong river flowing by while reading my book, then found two other French travelers to share a tuktuk to Wat Phou with. They were such entertaining companions although since their English wasn't very comprehensible and the only French I know is 'bon appetit', it was like playing charades all the way. Lots of crazy sign language aided with a French-English language handbook made for rather interesting 'conversations'!

80000 kip (10USD) for the whole tuktuk including return journey, which is not a bad deal when you consider the fact that Wat Phu is 10km away and it becomes drastically cheap if you can get many people to share the tuktuk with you. The entrance fee to Wat Phu is 30000 kip, which isn't exorbitant nor is it particularly cheap. The temples are supposed to be alike to the Angkor Wat, just not on such a grand scale. 'Hindu temples with Khmer architecture', they say. Personally, I thought it was simply lovely! It is very untouristed though, which means that all the signboards were in Lao script and it was a struggle to figure out what exactly you were looking at.

Lots of steep steps to climb to get to the main temple place so you will arrive there dripping in sweat while the amused Lao people selling drinks at the top smile at you. Also, many rough trails covered with rocks, grass and since its the rainy season, a bit of mud to get to the sacred site of the Spring (more like a trickle of water through the cliffs), the carved Elephant on the stone (which was amazing, since it is so unassuming, simple, artistic and you realize it is there only after a few seconds of staring at the stone looking for an elephant) , Buddha's footprint on the stone, and supposedly a carving of the Crocodile (tried really hard but couldn't spot the croc). Overall, it just has a nice vibe going for it, definitely something you should not miss should you find yourself in Champasak!

What is fascinating about this temple is that it was originally a Hindu temple centuries ago but now, today, it is the most sacred spot in Laos for Buddhism. Amazing how the place is still the same, but the religion has changed.

Since it is currently low season (tourist season) in Laos due to the crazy heat, Wat Phu was very empty, which was nice. That's the reason my guesthouse (Phondavanh GH) is so cheap, people are so generous with giving me free food (I got pineapple today!), tuktuks aren't expensive, everything is nice and not crowded. It is also mentioned in various websites that this is also the rainy season in Laos. Well, don't let that scare you away. I came prepared with an umbrella but so far the only use I have for my umbrella is to shield me from the sun. If it does rain, it rains hard and fast, it's over in a second.

Wat Phu, Champasak

So, tomorrow I will hopefully get to Pakse. The latest songtheaw is at 8.30 am which is a bit early, let's hope I can wake up in time to get it. If I oversleep (and a small part of me is wishing I will oversleep), I will just have to stay another day in this peaceful town :)

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