After a short flight I was met by my third and final guide for my Laos tour, a young man working hard to improve his English skills. Our first day was supposed to be a visit to Vat Phou up in the mountains. I explained that I was not feeling well and would prefer to go to the hotel on the river about twenty-five kilometers outside of town. We stopped at the pharmacy for some irritable bowel syndrome medication. There was still some confusion because the guide did not completely understand that, YES, I truly wanted to cancel the temple tour.
Day 1: Spent laying around the river front resort.
Day 2: A full day exploring the area known locally as Sipandon (‘4000 Islands.’) In this beautiful area the Mekong River reaches fourteen kilometers wide and thousands of small islands dot the waterway. During our boat ride we observed river dolphin swimming next to the boat.
Next was the impressive Lippi falls, which are on the west of Don Khone, very close to the Cambodian border. The original name, Tad Somphamit, means “trap spirit” and the locals revere these falls as they believe they act as a trap for bad spirits. The guide told me a long-winded story about the local white cranes. I was able to comprehend only about half the story.
The islands played an important role during the French Colonial rule as they linked Laos to Cambodia and Southern Vietnam. To overpass the waterfalls, a railway and bridge were built, and this turned out to be the perfect place to take time and soak in the VIEW.
Day 3: I made the excursion to the temple Vat Phou which had been planned for the first day. Recognized by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site, Vat Phou is a spectacular pre-Angkorian temple set amid rice fields and waterways. The temple was constructed in three levels: the bottom level is focused on the baray (water reservoir) and promenade, the second level features quadrangular pavilions and galleries of carvings, and the top level is the sanctuary itself. The temple was built by the rulers of the Khmer empire before construction of Angkor Wat.
The temple served as the most important economic and political center of the region and remains one of the Lao people’s most revered temples. I was grateful to be alone and not with the guide for this experience, as I was able to peacefully read about the site in silence and feel the energy in a meditative state.
The last photograph of the large boulder with twigs propped up on the underside illustrates a custom that is intended to bring a person good luck. I had first seen this custom while visiting an area in western Thailand.