As is true with many places, getting to Champassak was more than half the fun. There is no public transportation, as such services are the exclusive domain of Capitalist countries.
So we took one of those weird jumbo tuk-tuks from the Paksé morning market and once it was packed as tightly as a womb we set off.
Champassak in itself is just one street, really, with one roundabout and some old French houses. When our rented motorbike ran out of gas, some old ladies organized for a girl to go get us some in a Coke bottle.
But outside of Champassak is Vat Phu (pronounced Poo, like Winnie), an ancient Cham ruin which was probably a little village in the same greedy megalomaniac civilization that created Ankor Vat, just next door in Cambodia.
The ruins are being lovingly restored with help from the Italians and the Indians. There are a few buildings and a hike up the side of the
The site lacks the tree-ness of
But it does have a beautiful stairway to heaven flanked by two trees that have become part of the stairs. After many years they have taken on a Tolkein quality; the magic of time, place, abandon and destiny.
On the flag stones all throughout the site little holes were bored. No one we spoke with was able to give us an explanation for these holes. They are too shallow to plant flagpoles and could not really be used to help move the stones in any efficient ways. Here’s my theory:
In the dry and hot season leading up to the summer monsoon, the holes were filled with water so that the ensuing evaporation would cover the temple complex with mist. The whole site was built to represent Heaven on Earth, so this bit of staging would have been most appropriate.