Connect the dots

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Shiva in Champasak

Since Laos used to be part of the Khmer empire, it's no surprise to find their craftsmanship in the form of a Hindu temple present here. In the small town of Champasak, on (guess where?) the Mekong River, is the Shiva temple and World Heritage site, Vat Phu. An easy trip from Pakse or Si Phan Don, you should visit this simply for its setting - right at the foot of a hill. The summit of Phu Kao, likened to a linga (Shiva's phallic symbol), rises above (pun fully intended). Although there is mention of a sanctuary and city built in the 5th century, this religious complex was built in the 11th century with additions built up until the 13th century.

At first glance, you are only able to view the two "palaces", but as you climb the sandstone stairs flanked by frangipani trees to each of the terraces, the stone walls start to become more apparent despite being covered in a mossy green.

Northern palace
Southern palace

When you arrive at the top, you are rewarded with some beautiful carvings of dvarapalas, devatas, airavatams, and Krishna on the sanctuary lintels and walls. It's like being back at Angkor Wat!

Mossy bossy
Sanctuary, now a Buddha temple

You can also spend the night in the town which is full of old French colonial shophouses, many right on the river. 

Inthira Champasak
Breakfast noodles - spicy pork soup
Lots of rain, but nothing beats a rainbow at the end of the day

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