Day 62, 63 Champasak

Trip Start Oct 02, 2012
1
44
116
Trip End Mar 13, 2013


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  , Champasak,
Sunday, December 2, 2012

Pakse :

pop 119,000
Former Indochinese capital.
Pakse is close to the Khmer ruins of Wat Phu and the Bolaven Plateau of coffee-growing region and its Edenic waterfalls.


Champasak
:

14,000
This serene riverside town drips with charm thank to its silkscreen-like mountain fringed by emerald rice paddies and the easy manner of its locals. Among faded colonial villas there's a spinkling of hgh-end style with a boutique hotel and a couple of upscale restaurants, but the real highpoint is the picturesque ruins of Wat Phu Champasak.

Wat Phu Champasak
: Overlooking the Mekong valley, Wat Phu Champasak, while not in the same league as Angkor Wat, is one of the most impressive archeological sites in Laos and well worth visiting.I's divided into lower and upper parts, joined by a steep, flower-bordered stone stairway.
The lower part consist of two ruined palace buildings at the edge of a large square pond, itself split intot two by a causeway, used for ritual ablutions.The upper section is the temple sanctuary itself, which once enclosed a large Shiva phallus. Some time later the sanctuary was converted into a Buddhist temple, but original Hindu sculptures remain in the lintels.
 


Day 62 December 2, Sunday: Getting to Champasak



We
bought a boat-bus ticket from Don Det Bungalows the previous day to
leave by boat at 11am today. We went to the bungalows early and they
took us across the river to the dock we arrived at from Cambodia. We
waited there for over an hour until the bus for Champasak left. The
bus was going to Pakse, a city just north of Champasak, but it would
drop us off at a boat dock along the way.



There
were a few people that got off the bus with us and we took a boat to
cross the river to what we thought was Champasak. We could smell a
scam coming, but once we got off the boat it was too late. The boat
took us across the river to a small village a few kilometers north of
Champasak. The actual route of the ferry is to cross the river, go to
this small village, and then continue down the river to Champasak
itself. They told everyone to get off the boat where we were
introduced to a local who has a tuk-tuk that would take us to
Champasak for $1.25. However, if we stayed at his guesthouse he
wouldn't charge us for the tuk-tuk ride. We stayed at his place
because it wasn't that expensive, but once again we fell right into a
local scam. They didn't actually take us to Champasak (they said that
they did) and once we get off we are stranded away from town and our
only option was to either take the tuk-tuk or walk the distance to
town.



The
guesthouse did have internet, so that was a good thing, but the fan
in our room was really slow.
After we got our room we walked around the town (which consists of
one road) and ate a late lunch at their riverside restaurant.






It was around this time that we
realized that we were short on money. Laos was much more expensive
than we thought (transportation, hotels) and we didn't have enough
cash. However, there was a bank in town, which we already knew about
before arriving there. What we didn't know was that the bank was
closed Saturday and Sunday (we arrived on a Sunday) so we were out of
luck if we wanted to withdraw today. So, we had to wait until
tomorrow (Monday) when we were told the bank would reopen. The bank
also does not use Union Pay (Bank of China), and only uses Visa, so we
would have to use one of our Visa cards.





Day 63 December 3, Monday: bicycle, Wat Phu



We
rented bicycles this morning to go to Wat Phu. We left around 7am and
it took us just over 40min to bike to the temple. We bought our
tickets to the temple right at the opening time (8am). The museum
near the ticket office wasn't open yet so we continued up the hill
toward the temple.

Wat
Phu is an ancient Khmer (the people who built Angkor) religious
complex. It was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2001.
Sanskrit and Chinese sources confirm that this has been a place of
worship since the mid 5th century. What is seen today is
the product of centuries of building, rebuilding, alteration, and
addition, with the most recent structures dating from the late
Angkorian period. At its height, the temple and nearby city formed
the most important economic and political center in the region.




Although
there is extensive preservation work underway at Wat Phu, it has
suffered a lot of damage over time. Compared to the sites at Angkor,
Wat Phu was not as spectacular. However, like many of the Angkor
temples one of the most interesting things about the site were the
other-worldy trees. In addition to the trees the hillside setting were
the best things about Wat Phu. The actually temple and ruins were
veery underwhelming for people who had already been to Angkor. Also,
Wat Phu was listed in our guidebook as a highlight of visiting Laos,
which made as worried about the other sites that they listed as
highlights.



After
Wat Phu we tried to go to the bank, but they were closed. We biked
back to our hotel and they told us that today was a  water
festival  and thats why the bank was closed today. They said
it would be open tomorrow (Tuesday), but we weren't sure if we could
trust them because they told us the bank would be open today.



All
of this created a problem. We wanted to go to Pakse, but the last bus
(we were told) that went to Pakse left at 7:30am. We also needed to
withdraw money from the bank to pay our hotel, but the bank (we were
told) opened at any of the following times: 8:30am (according to the
sign outside the bank), or 8:20 (according to the owner of the
hotel). We told the owner of the hotel our problem and suddenly there
was no problem because there were  many  buses going to
Pakse.




We
didn't know what to think other than we had to go to the bank as soon
as it opened, withdraw money, pay our hotel and then see what we
could do.


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