Our fourth full-day in Paksi, we planned to have a slightly easier day, so we used Pakse Travel again for a six hour return to trip Vat Phou (we used the same agent for our trip to 4000 Islands).
UNESCO has put Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape on the World Heritage List. Here’s a transcription of their overview description (source UNESCO):
The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Vat Phou Temple complex, is a remarkably well-preserved planned landscape more than 1,000 years old. It was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountain top to river bank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km. Two planned cities on the banks of the Mekong River are also part of the site, as well as Phou Kao mountain. The whole represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire.
Open this link for some excellent photos in the public domain. We’ll publish the best of our own photos later.
We were picked up by the minibus at our hotel at 8.30 for the ninety minute journey to Champasak.
The Vat Phou site is impressively run, and after buying our tickets, we jumped on an open sided tourist bus that took us to the bottom of the ancient hill. We had three hours at the sight but we looked at the people high up the mountain side and wondered if we had enough time.
Some of the inscriptions belonged to the 5th and 6th century and mentioned a sanctuary built on the hill, but this building had gone and was replaced with the religious complex that we are able to see today – this dates back to the 11th century, with additions added in the 12th and 13th centuries.
It was a very hot day and the climb up the hill on steep steps seemed unending. However, to see some of the magnificent sandstone carvings of elephants, crocodiles and snakes, some dating back to 7th century, was a truly great experience. We wandered about this ancient city until it was time to make our way down and admired the views of mountain and countryside, whilst being very careful where we stepped.
Of course, it was quicker to descend so we had a refreshing drink at the base and waited for the time to rejoin our minibus. On the way back to Pakse, we made a couple of stops to see tourist attractions and then left the group at about 1.30 PM. We popped in to Pakse Travel to finalized some future plans, had lunch in Daolin, then returned to our hotel for an afternoon at leisure.
The next day, we had planned a five-hour trek in the jungle but we’ll cover that in the next blog.