Wat Phou Champasak, Southern Laos

You know you are living a good life when the words “temple” and “waterfall” become frequent in your vocabulary.

This is our last post on Laos—thank you so very much for following along on our journey. Don’t fear, there are many post-Laos adventures queued up for your reading pleasure.  To close on Laos, for our final day, we visited an incredible UNESCO World Heritage Site, Wat Phou Champasak.
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Wat Phou (or Vat Phou) is an ancient Khmer temple complex near the Cambodian-Laos border. Archeologists have actually determined that an ancient road ran all the way from Wat Phou to the famous temple complex of Angkor Wat! Folks, that is a long way. When I first heard that fact, it reminded me of the ancient Roman roads we saw in Jordan and in Italy, and the phrase, “All roads lead to Rome”. Well, I think it is fair to say that in Southeast Asia, all roads lead to Angkor Wat.

In the above photo, Sean and I are in front of one of the ancient reservoirs created for the temple, with the sacred mountain of Wat Phou in the background. The temple comlex was built into the side of the hill, so we were anticipating some great views.

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Here is the entry road to Wat Phou. You can see two large buildings immediately behind me, but the temple complex stretched up into the hills in the background. (I have taken quite a liking to being barefoot here—maybe it is the absence of leeches after Koh Kong, but I feel that I can conquer anything!)

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One of my favorite things about traveling abroad is that the ancient ruins become your playground. Perhaps, though, they should be more protected…?

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Looking into the hills of Wat Phou.

 

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This was one of our favorite parts of the site. The ancient steps were beginning to warp with the growth of the trees. We pondered over this for quite some length; were the trees built to anchor the stone steps in this specific way? Or is it merely coincidence?

 

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At the top of the steps was the main Buddhist temple. At this point it began to rain, so we took refuge under a wooden hut that is occasionally used for selling snacks and offerings to Buddha. (It was empty on that day. Don’t worry, we didn’t kick anyone out!)

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After the skies cleared, we were able to take some great pictures. Did you know, I’ve taken up yoga in Cambodia? It is only fitting. This is the tree pose. I have yet to perfect it… But the setting certainly was perfection. If you look in the background you can see the straight road running away from the temple; this is the road that used to lead to Angkor Wat.

 

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Inside the main temple on the side of the hill, there is a modern Buddhist shrine. Did you know that it is forbidden to take a picture with your back to the Buddha? Thus, Chino recommend I take this modest and respectful pose. This temple was actually very unique because it was connected to a natural spring that came out of the mountain. The water was then piped into the temple itself, continually “bathing” or immersing the lingas (holy statues) in water. It is the only known water-temple of it’s kind. Today, you can still locate the spring, which merely drips, and you can see the ruins of where it entered the shrine to shower the lingas.

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Beautiful carvings. Incredibly preserved. This stuff is from between the 11-13th centuries!

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An ancient Hindu stone relief. Shiva is in the middle, between Vishnu and Brahma. As you can see, the temple was originally a Hindu temple, but was converted to a Buddhist temple later on, as it currently is now.

 

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We loved how the temple was just nestled within the crannies of the mountainside!

 

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More ancient carvings… We stumbled upon this, hidden in the jungle on the mountain. I love this because it shows the universal timelessness of the spiral….

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The terraced hills leading up to the main temple. Time to go home.

IMG_7924Our final night was spent in the tiny town of Champasak. I loved the architecture down the ‘main’ street.

Thus concludes our trip to Laos. A place I never thought I’d see with my own eyes! I think a return trip is in order, but this time to Northern Laos.

Check back soon to see what we have been up to since Laos! I guarantee there are two more countries that have tales to be told, and our Halloween plans are looking to be quite the blog in themselves…

See you next time!

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