. By the time we reached the far bank we were pretty wet - espescially as we didnt have coats, umbrellas or anything !! A skylab was waiting at Ban Paphin to take us the few km into Champasak town/village. Here we were dropped off on our own and appeared to be the only visitors in town. We headed for the Souchitra Guest House overlooking the river but the welcome was not particularly friendly and the rooms that we were shown were dirty. We departed and walked 100m up the road, the only road in the town, and checked out the Khamphoui Guest House. Here we were welcomed like old family freinds and because they were so pleased to have the possibility of guests staying they reduced the room rate to 120Bht (about 2.50GBP). We checked in to a pleasant fan room with hot water bathroom in a concrete block adjacent to the guest house and were quite comfy. We also had free Laos Coffe in reception which we instantly availed ourselves of to warm up whilst we dried out. An hour later the rain had still not stopped but I went out for a walk in my still wet T-shirt. Not much to see here but I did find a restaurant overlooking the river directly opposite the guest house so we headed here for lunch. Early afternoon and the rain had stopped so we took a songthaew to go and visit the Khmer ruins at Wat Phu, Champasak, the main reason for anyone coming here at all. It is only about a 20min journey travelling through several small villages. The mountains are still shrouded with puffy white clouds but apart from that the weather is not too bad
. We begin our visit with a walk along the ceremonial promenade which we had been warned to take carefully as several people had slipped in the wet there that morning. Now lined with marker stones it leads the eyes to the mountain beyond and we wonder how far up we have to ascend. The main two constructions that have survived the ravages of time sit either side of the pathway about half way along. There is work ongoing to restore them but they are not looking in a good state of repair. Although now a World Heritage site funding is much required to enable work to progress. There is a short but very steep staircase, reminiscent of Angkor Wat, in front of us but it is closed for safety reasons. We scramble across the stones around the side of the staircase and continue up the promenade. To reach the next level we have to pass through what would have been a ceremonial gateway but little is left of it. It is flanked by a dvarapala that is now dressed in robes beneath an umbrella and is a place for making offerings. Jai accepts the string bracelet and makes an offering of flowers for good luck before we continue. I promise to do the same if we manage to get to the top and back down in one piece. Another short promenade leads to another near vertical stairway with wet, mossy, steps to ascend. Then yet more steps as we climb 7 flights of 11 stairs to reach the final sanctuary at the top. Once the home of a Shiva Lingam it now houses a collection of Buddhas. I climb on to see the waterfall that is flowing off the cliff above the sacred spring that once fed the temple complex
. We wander around for a bit enjoying the views down over the whole site and with Mekhong just visible in the far distance. I guess we were lucky as it has not rained since we left the guest house and the sky is pretty clear. We descend carefully and I make an offering and get my bracelet as promised. We make a short visit to the very modern museum by the entranceway then head back to Champasak. There is still no rain so I go out for another walk around. Visit an old colinial style house that used to belong to the Lao Royal family as recently as 1975 and then I go the Wat on the edge of town where members of the royal family had their ashes interred in stupas. There are only about 2 roads in town and absolutely no traffic except for a few bicycles and cattle. Later we return to the riverside restaurant at Saythong Guest House where the food is really good.
After a long and uncomfortable day on the bus yesterday we didnt fancy more of the same today so instead of using public transport for our trip to Champasak we booked travel on a small aircon minibus with a travel agancy. It was going to cost more but it didnt seem as though it was too much more. It also meant that we could have a lie in. We were at the agency at 07:30 and were on our way by 08:00. It was a lovely sunny morning with bright blue skies and things were looking good. About 20 minutes later, however, the weather reverted to type and the rain started again under pitch black skies. We arrived at Ban Muang about 40 minutes later and left the bus to wait for a ferry to cross the Mekhong. We had started off with a full bus of 13 farang but were now down to the 4 of us. A vehicle ferry, two large pontoons roped together to form a sort of catamaran was just leaving as we arrived and then we were taken down to a small longtail boat for our crossing. The rain was pouring and the river was swollen with the rainfall so the crossing took quite a long time with very strong currents pushing against us