Southern Laos: Wat Phu

Most people have heard of the spectacular Angkor Wat in Cambodia, one of the great wonders of the world. What is less well known however, is that Laos has its own Angkor Wat - Wat Phu, in Champasak province, southern Laos.

Wat Phu was built as the eastern temple of the Angkor complex by the immensely powerful and architecturally sophisticated Khmer empire. Visiting its 1,000 year old ruins is an absolute must in southern Laos.

The well worn 1,000 year old steps of leading up the mountain to Wat Phu, a Khmer Hindu temple ruin, in Champasak, Laos | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

The day we visited Wat Phu happened to be a significant occasion in the Buddhist calendar - the last day of Lent. Hundreds of candles and bamboo torches lined the entire complex; people were still putting them in place when we arrived just after 9am. They would be lit after dark, alighting the whole mountain in a display of tiny, flickering lights.

Mist shrouds the mountain while 1,000 year old carved stone pillars lead the way up the mountain to Wat Phu, a Khmer Hindu temple ruin, in Champasak, Laos | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

The day was overcast and a mist shrouded the mountain. It slowly receded as we climbed higher and higher.

Mist shrouds the mountain but the heavy 1,000 year old carved stone structures of Wat Phu remain steadfast and vigilant. Wat Phu, a Khmer Hindu temple ruin, in Champasak, Laos | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

Wat Phu was made a UNESCO heritage listed site in 2001. Since then a restoration project has been underway.

A local Lao boy rides a bicycle past the restoration of the 1,000 year old carved stone structures of Wat Phu, a Khmer Hindu temple ruin, in Champasak, Laos | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

Even with small kids in tow, Wat Phu is a great place to visit. In fact, kids and dogs will climb those well worn stone steps better than you do!

Local Lao kids leap up the well worn, heavy stone steps of the 1,000 year old Wat Phu, a Khmer Hindu temple ruin, in Champasak, Laos | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu
Local Lao kids run up the well worn, heavy stone steps of the 1,000 year old Wat Phu, a Khmer Hindu temple ruin, in Champasak, Laos | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

Wat Phu was originally part of a riverside city called Shrestapura and the first early shrines on the mountain date back to the 5th century. It later became part of the Angkor kingdom, which at its peak in the 11-13th centuries crossed Laos, Cambodia and Thailand. At this time, Wat Phu was constructed as a Hindu temple complex, at the same time as Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

A mere 70 steps, almost vertical steps lead up to the sacred shrine and the main part of the complex. It is incredible to look at the depth and size of these steps and imagine them carried up and laid here by hand.

A mere 70 steps, almost vertical steps lead up to the sacred shrine and the main part of the complex of the 1,000 year old Wat Phu, a Khmer Hindu temple ruin, in Champasak, Laos | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

These buildings, as in the Angkor Wat complex, are so strongly constructed that they have lasted the centuries of humidity, rain, civilisation, war, and even the jungle.

The roots of ancient trees grow and weave themselves around the centuries-old buildings in the Lao forested mountain of Wat Phu. Built 1,000 years ago, the Khmer empire ruins have withstoodthe centuries of humidity, rain, civilisation, war, and even the jungle | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu
The 1,000 year old Wat Phu, part of the Khmer empire, akin to Angkor Wat in Cambodia | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

The Khmer empire dissolved in the 15th century, after which Wat Phu was converted to Theravada Buddhism. The central shrine is still is use today.

The once Hindu and now Buddhist shrine at the top of the 1,000 year old Wat Phu, is still considered sacred. It was part of the Khmer empire, akin to Angkor Wat in Cambodia | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu
The once Hindu and now Buddhist shrine at the top of the 1,000 year old Wat Phu, is still considered sacred. It was part of the Khmer empire, akin to Angkor Wat in Cambodia | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

One of the best things about (finally) getting to the top are the breezes, cool from the river, and the views. Stretching over the mountain, the river and Champasak. The ubiquitous refreshments and souvenir stall at the top of the stairs is a welcome sight too (cold water!).

The ubiquitous refreshments and souvenir stall at the top of the stairs is a welcome sight (cold water!) at the top of the 1,000 year old Wat Phu, in Champasak, Laos. It was part of the Khmer empire, akin to Angkor Wat in Cambodia | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu
One of the best things about (finally) getting to the top of the 1,000 year old Wat Phu, in Champasak, Laos, is the view | Eat Drink Laos http://eatdrinklaos.com/blog/southern-laos-wat-phu

Wat Phu is 6km from Champasak town. It's open everyday from 8am-6pm and costs 50,000 kip (falang) and 20,000 kip (Lao). Park your car in the parking lot and wander through the gardens. A shuttle bus takes you up to the lake. From there, it's on foot. Dress appropriately.