No money Paxsong
Roads and knives
Mekong fish dinner
29th June 2011
We packed up from our expensive hotel, and moved on into town. Back at the hotel from last night, we dropped our bags and rented a bike to take us out to Vat Phu. It wasn’t the best of bikes, and we were renting it for two days, but there wasn’t even room for our stuff. Not that we were taking more than a small bag between us. Just the valuables. On the bike and off. It was a semi auto. Gears but no clutch. A bit weird to get used to, but not too bad. We had been told by tourist info that there was a new road across the Mekong that would take us there, it isn’t listed on any roads as it is so new. It was easy enough to find, and quite well done considering. We managed to get quite a clip of speed up, and soon were cruising along. The road was that new that there were hardly any places along it for drinks or food. The one we stopped at wasn’t anything special. The end of the road came as a shock though. No notification just really bad dirt road sloping all over the place. Then nothing. We took a turn and ended up in a town. This turned out to be Champakse an old french colonial town. The guide-book says it is a special place full of old french buildings and has its own charm. There are a half-dozen collapsing, dilapidated houses along with the usual brick and cement or wooden houses, the road is so full of potholes that they have joined together and are charging exit fees. the chickens and geese wandering across the road are a traffic hazard and then we blinked and we were back to rice paddies. A bit further on we knew we were in the right place. There was a UNESCO sign across the road. Another one of those.
A bit further up the road and we came to the entrance of the Wat. Paid our fees and went to check out the museum attached. It wasn’t bad, but needed a lot more detail. It is a Khmer place that was originally Hindu, but taken over by Buddhism. Examples of the stone carving and a bit of history on the place. Mainly built during the 11th Century, but it was the original seat of Khmer power until they moved to Angkor. Further up towards the base of the hill and you come across a large man-made lake that is the opening section of the vat.
From there you follow a path to two large buildings. These are currently being redone, and you can’t go in. However they are just shells anyway. There isn’t much to see. They flank the original stone pathway leading up the hill. This is a bit unique, as instead of making it a nice easy walking path to the gradient of the slope, they made each flagstone flat and it is almost a very large staircase with big low steps.
Then you are at the base of the hill. It gets a bit tricky here, as you start going up the staircase proper.
There were a few restoration projects around the base of the temples to try and keep them from disintegrating more than they already have.
Looking out from the valley after a grueling climb provides a worthwhile sight as you look out over the old temples, lake and paddy fields stretching into the distance.
As you climb up the steps you pass these brilliant terraces on either side, now overgrown, so you don’t know if they were paved with statues or just flower gardens. However the moss on them now is luminescent.
The Buddha’s footprint. One of the earliest form of Buddhist graffiti in the region. The original temple is Hindu but had been taken over by the Buddhists. Apparently there were a number of wars in the region over which religion would be the predominant one.
You can see the intricate reliefs carved into the the temple walls. This shows the level of skill the stonemasons had at the time.
Vat Phu was created around the sacred spring. Here you can see the wooden funnel channeling the sacred water to be blessed in a yoni.
Golden Buddhas at the top of Vat Phu. The temple is still visited by people to give offerings, so these guys are looked after.
The view of the Buddhas enclosure. This is the peak of the temple, just below the springs. You should see the ceremonial detritus stored out the back!
Our put-put boat over the Mekong. if you weren’t on it, you wouldn’t have believed it would make it across the river. The motorbike we had rented is actually on this boat. No, Raft.
Thien again – talk and beer
Tour Dragon boat, perfume river, garden house, pagoda, temple, lunch, japanese tombs
old one colourful, new one not. Trip home
As Andrew was not up for anything yet (and I do not know how to ride a motorbike) I decided to do a tour (!!) This tour was to include the river, pagoda and the tombs of former emperors out in the country.
A minivan came to pick me up from the hotel. Before we got to the river it stopped to pick up 4 more tourist. We were all very happy with our small group, as we assumed this meant we would do the tour in a small dragon boat. We were all wrong. A big dragon boat with about 50 other people was ready and waiting for us. This type of boat is just a big metal flat-bottomed boat, with nothing inside. You get a plastic chair, and find a place. They squeezed us in at the back of the boat.
(never did type up the rest of this day.. Was a nice day though, see photo’s)
Andrew was still sick, so I decided to go for a walk by myself again. Headed back over the river. After a little while I ended up at the citadel. I know I wanted to wait for Andrew to get better, so we could do this together, but I could not think of anything else to do today.. so went in anyway.
In 2 days time, Andrew was better and we did it again together. You can read all about the citadel then 🙂
Anna walked around old town. met Tjien. fortune-telling in hand. market. Thien
Not much looking forward to a day by myself again, but can’t spend the whole day in the hotel either.. Decided to have a look around old town.
The cyclos were a bit surprised that I wanted to walk across the bridge, but after telling about 8 of them no, they finally got it. The perfume river might sound like a nice small gentle stream but is in fact quite a big brown river.
On the other side things got better. (after again telling the cyclos that I was not interested) Behind the first row of ugly new riverside buildings, you cross a moat and gate to get into old town. On one side you have the main tourist attraction : the Citadel. I wanted to safe this for when Andrew was feeling better, so headed the other way. Now there were cyclo drivers hassling me… I was getting quite annoyed. Is it really that difficult to understand that I am not interested, I want to walk, and No, I dont know where I’m going.. One cyclo driver was actually following me. By then I had had enough, and started giving back strange answers to confuse him. : “I am trying to get lost”, “It will be fun to wander around without directions and get sunburnt”. unfortunately this guy would not give up, so I stopped to talk to him. As it turns out, he is a really nice guy and fun to talk to. His name was Thien, and he had studied a few years as a zen buddhist monk. He wanted to tell me my future by studying the line sin my hand. I had no idea that monks did this. I was curious, so gave in, but sensing the bill at the end already. Apparently I don’t have enough “poison” in my life and need to get more ?? He asked for pen and paper, so he could write it all down for me and give me a nice souvenir. Ok then, the bill just went up. Apparently his written english is a bit better and it turns out that I don’t have enough patience. (make more sense) I need to meditate and learn etc. After chatting a bit more and finding out more about him, I was starting to feel really bad about trying to brush him off earlier. He would be a really nice guide to do a bit of Hue’s country side with. I took his business card and was planning on calling him if Andrew was up for it the next day. Time to get going though. I said goodbye, and he did not even ask for money for his fortune-telling.. I was stunned.. Nice to know that there are still people working in the tourist bussiness that are not just all about money!
The old town is very different from new town on the other side. There are hardly any hotels or guesthouses. Small quite winding alleys, with no tourists at all. The house Ho Chi Min lived in when he was in Hue is supposed to be in this area, but I couldn’t find it. After a wander I had a drink at a road stall, run by a very nice girl who didn’t speak a word of English. With a bit of sign language we figured out which way it was to the markets.
Quite a walk, as I seemed to have completely wandered of the map. The markets were nice, but not different from any other markets. Clothing, shoes, toys, spices, veggies and some scary looking dried fish bits.
Back to check on Andrew, who was not doing any better yet..