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.