Friday, May 8, 2009

To PAKSE, DAY 11 & 12

1. With our base in Pakse (we stay at Pakse Hotel), our first full day (Day 12. 8 May) in the Champasak area was dedicated to the visit of Wat Phu Champasak, a World Heritage Site.

2. Located some about 30 kms South of Pakse, Wat Phu is usually reached by travelling South along Highway 13 to Lak30, then turn right and travel a few kilometers to a ferry point. As Wat Phu is on the Western side of the Mekong River, people and vehicles are ferried across from here. Other than some waiting at the ferry point, the trip to Wat Phu should be straightforward, as pointed out by the hotel staff in Pakse Hotel.

3. However, our map shows us that we could cross the Mekong River by the Lao-Nippon Bridge at Pakse, travel West along Highway 16W (towards the Thai/Lao border crossing), and turn left at the vicinity of Phonlong and travel another 50 kms or so to Champasak and Wat Phu. Pointing out that the road to Champasak on the Western side of the Mekong is still largely laterite, staff at Pakse Hotel did not recommend this route.

3. With our Pajero we decided to give the Western route a try. The laterite tracks that we travelled (when we ventured away from Highway 13) on the previous day were not too bad. As it turned out, this Western route was really quite bad, with many potholes along the way. The trip took us a good two hours, covering some 60-70 kms. We only managed to reach Champasak for lunch at about 12. Midway, we decided to take a break. Hoping to make hot tea but we were disappointed that we had left the lighter and matches in the hotel. We settled for a relaxed moment in the shade of a tree and drinking bottled water from mess tins.

4. Until it is paved, the Western route to Wat Phu and Champasak is not recommended unless you are looking for fun with the 4 wheel drive.

5. After a quick lunch at Saythong Guest House and Restaurant which has a great view to the Mekong River and the Don Daeng island, we drove a short distance South to see Wat Phu. Declared a World
Heritage Site in 2001, parts of this temple could be traced back to the 5th century AD. Built originally as a Hindu temple, it was built, rebuilt and modified and like many other temples were converted to Buddhist temple 13th century. What we see today are remnants of the temple built around the 11 th century when it was part of the Khmer Empire which had its centre to the West at Angkor Wat.

6. Built with 3 levels at the foothill of Phu Kao, there was a fair amount of climbing up the steep staircases. Sunny said that the trip should be marketed to tourists as a fitness programme.

7. There was a good crowd of tourists visiting the site today, even though its the low season (we can understand why, its very hot), but mostly locals (could be Thai too, as I have difficulties differentiating them) and a handful of "falangs".
We asked for a tour guide to show us around the site but was told that such service was not available. As there was also no explanation boards on site, it would be useful to have a Lonely Planet book or its equivalent at hand.

8. The source of the sacred water is in the cave behind us in the photo on the immediate right. Washing with this water would bring good luck we were given to understand. Of course, we followed the locals and freshened up with the sacred water.

9. We left the site early at about 3.30 pm in order to catch a ferry to the Eastern side of the Mekong so as to avoid having to back track the tortuous 60-70 kms of dirt track. Heres the picture of the raft that carried us across the Mekong. (Our cameras were both flat, so we couldnt take a picture of the car on the raft. Pity)

10. The day before, Day 11 (7 May), we checked into Pakse Hotel (at about US$40 a night) at about 4 pm, some 200 kms South of Savannakhet. Travel along Highway 13 was easy, much like the earlier leg from Vientiane. We lost some time looking for a reservoir, traversing kms of dirt track off Highway 13. Surprising quite easy and enjoyable driving too. After a day of hard driving, our bodies needed rejuvenation. We had our 4 hands massage opposite Pakse Hotel for US$10 each.

11. Early morning, before we checked out of the hotel at Savannakhet, we went fishing at the Mekong River. Here you see 2 postures: an expert and an novice. Dont think you need to guess to see who is which.

A year ago, I would never have imagined that I would be fishing for the first time in the Mekong River. We did not catch any fish. You could see the director chairs that Gemma (Sunny's tai tai) bought which were put to good use.

1 comment:

  1. looks like you all 2 have discovered many "must visit and eat"" places, can publish a guide book next time for Lao tourism board:-) enjoy...bee lan