Saturday, December 19, 2015

Motorbiking Vat Phou – Champasak, Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Forty one kilometers, one-way on two wheels just to reach Vat Phou, an ancient Angkorian Temple on Champasak Province, southern part of Laos.

We rented a motorbike from Miss Noy in Pakse (the rental shop is so famous you can ask around) at 60,000 Kip (US$ 7.43) per day and filled it up with petrol for 25,000 Kip (US$ 3.09). The guys from the rental company were so helpful that they gave us an overview of some sights to see around town with free maps. They also gave a few remindres on securing our bikes (check here for discounted tours, transportation and activities in Luang Prabang).

After getting acquainted with our new ride we rolled off; I was driving, my buddy navigating.

Motorbike Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Motorbike Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Ready to roll
The seemingly quiet town of Pakse was filled with hundreds, no thousands, of motorbikes. It was a challenge to pass through them. The confusing traffic signs were an added challenge.

After reaching a toll gate it went smoothly. The rural sceneries and breathtaking landscape made the butt-numbing 41-kilometer ride bearable. We owned the road passing by a few cars on the way. I loved the ride. It was so relaxing. I was on the verge of stopping by on the side of the road to just relish the moment. But we couldn’t do so for it was a freeway so we just settled on viewing while driving.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Vat Phou ruins
It was quiet. The only sound came from the engine of our motorbike traversing the long and spotless road. We finally reached the end of the road and navigated toward our point of destination.

We parked our bike, secured it with chain and padlocks and went inside the Vat Phou Complex. After paying 50,000 Kip each (US$ 6.19) for the entrance fee, we hopped on a free shuttle going to the base of the temple complex.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Levels after levels
Literally translated as temple mountain, Vat Phou or Wat Phu is a Khmer ruined temple complex in the province of Champasak. Located at the base of Mount Phu Kao, it is believed that a temple was built here on 5th century dedicated to Hindu deity Shiva. It was a part of the Khmer empire and became the center of Therevada Buddhsim in this part of Laos and listed in the UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Like most of the Angkorian temples, Vat Phou is facing the east. It reminded me of the temples in Siem Reap, Cambodia. If you go to the museum inside the temple complex first, you would understand the historical evidences linking Vat Phou to the great temples or wats in Cambodia.

It was high noon and I was just recovering from our numbing bike ride and all I wanted was a breather. But my buddy was just too excited and explored the different levels of the temple complex right away, I followed his suit.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Angkorian
Vat Phou Champasak Laos

It wasn’t a busy day. Other than a handful of locals, we were the only ones uncovering the different stages of the vast temple complex. Evidences of restorations can be seen. But what's remarkable was that the restored pieces were noticeably replicates of the original ones. They didn't try to make it look like the original ones.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Restored parts never meant to look like the original ones
Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Amazing view from the top
A pathway with phallic relics led us to the next part of the temple complex. The ascent to the next level was challenging, well, for us. Me and my buddy were breathing heavily as we started the ascent.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos
The sanctuary
And then we reached the topmost part where a shrine holds a Buddha image. We hiked further and noticed some temple remains scattered all over the place. We scanned the area and noticed some inscriptions on the boulders. We went ahead and searched for other rock carvings and spotted an image of an elephant, crocodile and Buddha’s footprint.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Vat Phou Champasak Laos

Resting on a spot, we relished that moment of seclusion. We stayed there longer than we usually do when visiting temples. Maybe it was the cool weather or maybe it was the isolation we had at that moment. We found solace amidst the bustles of Pakse town.

Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Ancient rock carvings
Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Elephant
Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Buddha's foot
Vat Phou Champasak Laos
Crocodile
The area was still deserted when we climbed down. The radiant glare of the sun started to fade out as we commenced our descent.

Motorbike Vat Phou Champasak Laos

We got lost looking for the freeway but ended up on a quiet community in Champasak near the Mekong. More than the breathtaking view on top of the temple, I love how we managed to travel on two wheels. It was challenging but rewarding on the other hand.

Motorbike Vat Phou Champasak Laos






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