Day 133, Wednesday 16 May 2012, Champasak – Paske
Damnit, I should never have left Don Det ! Crap sleep in Champasak… As always I was up early(ish), I had breakfast and a quick catch up blog post and then took a walk up to the ATM as I was running low on cash. The ‘ATM’ is actually a guy in the bank who gives you cash from your card for a small fee. However, he requires ID – which I did not have in my pocket due to my licence being in the wallet I lost on Don Det. It was a quick trip back to the guest house to get my passport. Seeing as it was already approximately a billion degrees at only 8.30 am, I grabbed a bicycle from the guest house and rode back to the bank. However, my USD debit card was not acceptable as it does not have my name on it (for exactly this reason) so I had to suck up the pain and get cash on my visa.
Once I had enough money to pay my room expenses I settled up with the guest house and took my recently borrowed cycle and pedaled off in what I hoped was the general direction of Wat Phou – at this point there really is only one road, so it was 50/50 ! The ride took about half an hour under scorching sun, frustrating at times as there are no road signs – to what is the only reason that people come to Champasak. The only sign I saw on the ride suggested Wat Phou was on the Mekong, about 100 metres before the road took a sharp right inland. The ride was great and I found a lovely roadside Buddha.
as well as some awesome shutters 🙂
and of course, a wat.
I finally made it to Wat Phou with only having to double check directions once at a un-signposted intersection. Wat Phou is a Khmer religious site and dates back to the 5th century, pre-dating Angkor by a number of centuries. The site is built into the base of a small hill range, which makes it quite different to the sites around Angkor. It was originally constructed as a Khmer Hindu temple, but in the 11 – 13th centuries it was rebuilt as a Theravada Buddhist site of worship and the remains today are mainly from that period.
And now I am going whinge, like the pom I am !
This is the most significant Khmer site in Laos, it pre-dates Angkor – so it is old, really old, and in terms of SE Asian architecture, quite important. It is a major tourist attraction – why do none of the staff speak even rudimentary English as so many Lao people do? Not meaning to be the arrogant/ignorant English speaker, but come on – even the French speak some English. It was embarrassing for me and the staff as I tried to understand why I needed to pay more for a golf buggy to drive me to the site. I ended up with the buggy – a waste of money.
The two largest sections of ruins are under re-construction, and I mean with cranes and stuff, so not accessible, and hardly photogenic. And yes I agree with the rebuild – if it is to Angkorian standards.
It was noisy, lots of construction noise and as there was an extraordinary number of vendors in the site playing radios, full of awful Lao pop music.
There was not a bit of signage as to what was what – and stupidly I grabbed a French guide – that was my fault.
Whinges over, the bad things….
Ok some of these are good things, just wrapped in bad things, I mean who cannot resist a centuries old stone guard draped in pink !
Ok, they may be half hidden in modern tat, but they are still cool, this elephant carving and Buddha foot carved into the hillside were just amazing !
There was some good stuff to see, but probably bad timing on my behalf with all the work going on, maybe a sign before we handed over our $$ advising that reconstruction work was being carried out would also be good. I would have visited anyway, but you know – customer service. There were some awesome carvings here, which I really liked.
The good things….
The carvings – awesome to see some Khmer carvings on site again.
Vishnu riding Garuda – carving on the sanctuary.
The Elephant, the light was terrible for this shot
The crocodile. This was possibly the site of human sacrifice, in the very early days, pre conversion to Buddhism.
A Buddha figure, where it lay- I loved this.
Don’t get me wrong I enjoyed Wat Phou, just not as much as I should have, given how much I love ancient sites, especially those of the Khmer – and how long it has been since I have been to one.
I had a quick ride back to town, now I knew the way, but it was stinking hot and I was glad to get back into the shade of the GH and sink a large water and a Beer Lao over a quick lunch. After lunch the GH owner took me to up to the main road so I could get a mini-van the hour or so back to Pakse. Turns out the wait was more middle of the road than roadside.
And the mini-van was more back of truck – at least it was air conditioned ! The Keen’s are looking a wee bit shabby.
To be fair I think I was supposed to be in the back of the cab, but being a six foot westerner rather than a five foot Laotian, it wasn’t going to happen. I was dropped at the market bus station and met what was possibly the only honest tuk tuk driver in Pakse, his opening offer was half the price I was advised was fair – I accepted on the spot and got a ride back to the Sabaidy 2 hostel – the warmest in town, and got my old room back.
I asked after Danny when I arrived and was advised she was still up at the hospital, so I hung around relaxing for a while in the warmth – watched another episode of Sherlock – loving it. I caught up with Danny later in the afternoon and she was glad to see an old face again – Mike had been through yesterday and Laura the day before. We shared a curry for dinner and she borrowed my laptop to Skype her parents and give them the news about the crash and the burns. While they are not life threateningly bad, I think she has finally realised she may not be able to fully continue her travels, and that infection is a probability, scarring is a definite and things wont be easy over the next few days that she has to stay in Pakse. Now that Laura, Mike and I have all left town for good, those of us who were there at the time of the accident. The people that come through the GH in the future, though I am sure they will help out, they wont be the same as those of us that were there and had that ‘bond’.
We said our farewells early, I wished her all the best, and regrettably I never got an email address : (