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Why Wat Phou is special ?
About 40 kilometers South of Pakse are the ruins of Wat Phou, a 10th century Khmer temple. The temple that is built at the foot of a mountain overlooking the plains is inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. It comprises of a number of barays, two palaces, several small shrines, a processional walkway and a main sanctuary that was dedicated to Shiva. Vat Phou Mekong cruises offers cruises down the Mekong river on a converted ferry boat. Highlights of the 3 days, 2 nights cruise include visits to the ancient Khmer temples of Wat Phu and Uo Moung, the Si Phan Don area and the Khone Phapheng falls.
The Wat Phou was a temple dedicated to Shiva, one of the Gods of the Hindu Trimurti. In the 13th century it was converted into a Buddhist monastery. Even today the temple is still a place of worship for local Buddhists.
What to explore at Wat Phou?
The highest terrace measuring 60 by 60 meters contains the main sanctuary dedicated to Shiva. The terrace lies about 70 meters higher than the barays, offering great views over the plains, the walkway and the large barays.
The main sanctuary enshrined the linga, the representation of Shiva. The water stream from the mountain spring was channeled towards the linga in the main sanctuary, its holy water constantly bathing the linga. Today the sanctuary contains a much more recent large seated Buddha with three smaller Buddha images in front of it, all dressed in saffron robes.
Much like the Angkor temples of the same period, the building is adorned with sculptings of Devatas, Apsaras, Dvarapala guardians and Kalas, a monster usually depicted without lower jaw. Its lintels and pediments are adorned with various sculptings including Vishnu on Garuda, Krishna killing Kansa, Indra riding the three headed elephant Airavata, Krishna defeating the Naga Kaliya and stories from the Ramayana, like the abduction of Sita.
Near the main sanctuary are a small library, two large boulders carved to resemble an elephant and a crocodile and a rock with a carving of the Hindu Trimurti of the three Gods Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva.
How to get to Wat Phou?
Getting there using public transport involves several steps. The first is taking a songthaew, which leaves from Daoruang market in Pakse following Route 13 South, towards the Champasak East Terminal at about 60,000 Kip. From there, cross the Mekong river to Champasak district at about 20,000 Kip per person. From Champasak the 8 kilometer trip to the ruins can be made by tuk tuk or rented bicycle. Alternatively, rent a motorbike in Pakse for about 80,000 Kip per day. The drive to Wat Phou takes around 1 hour.
Travel agents in Pakse offer day trips to the temple by minivan.
- “Well preserved ruins.”
Wat Phu, Laos
Tips for you
there are 2 types. The regular tickets and 'VIP' tickets. The difference is a little golf buggy that drives you to/from the visitor center to the start of the site itself. Its a 1km walk and you don't need the buggy. They will try to sell you the VIP tickets first though - be SURE to ask for the regular tickets which as at 1 May 2013, was priced at 30,000 Kips. The VIP tickets were roughly 45,000 Kips.Prices
The archeological site is well looked after and has food, drink and toilets as well as a small museum. There is a bus (pay at ticket desk) to take you the kilometre to the start of the temple approach. A short level track and you are ready to start the climb. Luckily there are level terraces in between flights of stairs! Drinks available at the top too. We spent over 3 hours there - worth a visit. Local transport does not cater for visitors but don't go with Soutchai travel as they charge 160.000 k return. (45 minutes by taxi, about 30 km) Maybe boat is possible.