Wat Phou, Laos
Wat Phou is an ancient temple complex in Southern Laos in Champasak province and about six kilometers away from the Mekong River and on the foot of Phou Kao Mountain. On December 25th, 2002, the site was declared a heritage site by UNESCO, becoming Laos’s second after Luang Prabang. A peaceful cruise along the Mekong gives you a unique vantage point to see this beautiful complex and allows you to see life along the river bank as well.
Historians estimate that Wat Phou is over 1500 years old, making it one of the country’s oldest site of worship. It was built between the 6th and 12th centuries by the Chenla Empire. The nearby Phou Kao Mountain is considered holy because it is shaped like a linga (a symbol for the worship of the deity Shiva) and the mountain itself was considered home to the god.
The temple was then built and dedicated to Shiva, while the water from the spring which emerges directly behind the temple was considered sacred. Not much of the site remains since the city was mainly built by wood. By the 11th century, the Khmers restored and rebuilt the city and it now has many features characteristic of the ruins at Angkor such as stone causeways, decorative lintels and many carvings.
The surrounding area consists of geometrically positioned temples, shrines and waterworks covering an area of about 10 kilometers. Like most Khmer structures, it was eventually converted to Theravada Buddhist use in the 13th century.
A good way to explore Wat Phou is by a boat cruise along the Mekong River. The Mekong is a calm and slow moving river, making it a great opportunity for you to see the sleepy villages around the river bank. Many cruises include a stop at 4,000 Islands inlet, an area rich in bio-diversity, wildlife and rice fields.
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