Vat Phu

There was of course something in Champasak because otherwise what’s the point of going there. Champasak was the home of Vat Phu another world heritage site and supposedly older than Angkor Wat.

So this was our destination for the day. To go there we rented another scooter and Dudley drove us to the site. It was actually quite easy to go there. 10km straight ahead, over two bridges and then to the right. All very easy and straight forward, so we found it without trouble.
We paid our entrance fee and then sat down on the electric bus to get a lift up to the actual site. All very sophisticated especially since we were the only two tourists going up. Which is a bit unfair because there were other people once we were at the site (but nothing compared to Angkor Wat).
Having arrived on site we first got a bracelet full of blessings around our wrists for which we donated handsomely. Because what’s the point of money if you can’t share it with others?

So this was the start of our tour with a blessed bracelet and I was ready to be amazed again by a temple (see it’s enough to let some days go by and I was able to see another temple). Also Vat Phu was a bit different from Angkor Wat since it was built at the foot of a mountain, with another temple on top and a small spring.

 

We didn’t take the obvious column lined road, no Dudley wanted us to take the paved one and leave via the boulevard.

So coming slightly from the side we could first see the two mirror temples with the one on the left side under heavy reconstruction.

We therefore visited the one on the right side.

    

The way up was long and stony and had of course super steep steps again. But while going up the structure of Vat Phu became more and more visible.

  

  
Once up we were rewarded with a view over the valley and the Vat.

While visiting the temple on top we heard that if you pour the water from the spring on your head it brings good luck. One can never have too much of it, so of course I poured some.


     
I don’t know if it helped but it definitely hasn’t hurt to get as many blessings and good luck bracelets on this trip. We went to explore the area further and came upon some rocks higher up with elephant carvings.

  

The way down was steep as up with the added challenge of actually going down. The steps were in some parts so narrow that I had to navigate them sideways.

The fallen statue of a Buddha had something tragic but walking through the boulevard lined with columns on both sides felt majestic.

  

Since we were already in the area we set our sights on another temple just around the corner. The Hong Nang Sida Temple was just 2km away from Vat Phu but also in another world. The road there was no longer paved but a small dirt road with deep tracks, extremely muddy due to the rainfall last night and still half under water. Dudley managed to gut us there, I would have given up by at half way through. So this was how it looked in former times


and this is what we saw.

This temple has seen better times but it was still interesting to walk around. Not only we found that but also the local cows.

  

Of course the moment we walked back to the scooter it started to rain again. So we took shelter under the only construction at the site, a local house which looked lucky to be still standing. It helped with the rain though.

When we left the dirt road had changed into a mud pool and I was never more happier to drive shotgun. Dudley sneakers got dunked more than once.

Back on the paved road we had to stop for shelter a second time, the rain was coming down really hard (please see here).

But eventually we made it back into Champasak and Dudley had had it with me always sitting in the back, so he set out to get me driving. And of course I wanted to, it’s very limiting if you can only take the bicycle. Anyway, here we go.

  

 

I drove a couple more rounds but definitely not enough, so I will have to do it again soon. It was a very liberating experience that I could that. Good to know that you are never to old to learn a new trick! Yours, Pollybert

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More waterfalls and some dolphins

After breakfast the next day we rented some scooters. Actually just one. Because in a country where already kids drive around I was deemed a safety hazard since I couldn’t deal with it. At least I had tried it and could now sit shotgun with a good feeling.

There was no real plan for the day except to start with other waterfalls on the island. They were so small that they hadn’t even made it onto the map but they were there nonetheless.

We started with the French history area which had exactly nothing to offer beside precarious bridges and a wall along the Mekong.


  

The way to the fish monger had only one bridge which looked bigger and sturdier. I didn’t see any monger just a couple of traps that hopefully get filled during rainy season.


  

The main goal for the day was to see the Irrawaddy dolphins for which the best time was the afternoon. Until then we had more exploring to do so we turned back and set out in the other direction. Upon turning around we also managed to find the temple that was in our area and which we had missed on the way to the falls.

  

We crossed the French Bridge into Don Det and on the only available road traveled to the village of Don Det.


Here we parked the bike to explore the village. Not that there was much exploring to be done but still. We saw a big pig and a small one and a monkey that wanted to grab my bracelets all the time. He probably needed just a bit of attention since there were not so many tourists.

  
  
Outside of the village (because in it there was nothing) we found an inviting looking place and had a rest stop there. The Crazy Gecko seemed like the best place on this small island. Very cozy and inviting with a good wi-fi connection an excellent food.


  

After lunch we circled the island on the scooter until we landed again near the French Bridge.

Right beside the bridge an American had built a huge pool which we could use for a fee. Looking at the comings and goings of backpackers (ok maybe not on this picture) it was quite the clever business model.

After 3pm we left to look for the port and hitch a ride to the dolphins. We were told that the best time to see them was either in the morning or after 4pm. As it turned out we didn’t need to go to the port since a few enterprising boat owners offered the same as the harbor boats at competitive prices. And you can watch the dolphins at any time,

We got on the boat and traversed the Mekong. To our right side we could see Cambodia, so near we could almost touch it.

  
  

We stopped in the middle of nowhere, just somewhere on the river. And really in a minute the dolphins were here. Not that I could really prove that, but we definitely saw larger fish/mammals (depending on what you want to believe). I have a few pics were you can see ‘something’ and these should be Irrawaddy Dolphins. To see the ‘something’ you’ll probably have to double click the picture and hope that you have still 20/20 vision.


Going upriver after was also great to see. If you want to get a taste of it, please click here.

  
  
  
Once we got back to our little cove (harbor would be too much for it) with good luck and prayers that the gas will be enough, I got off the boat and fell flat to my feet. A very graceful exit with Dudley standing by and holding out his hand which I had completed overseen.

Except for some scratches though nothing happened, so I just got back up, fixed my invisible crown and off we went back to the hotel. Before going to our rooms we stopped for a picture with the local monkey. The owner of our hotel had bought it at some market so it wouldn’t end up in a stew. We were told that for a while she walked with him on a leash around the island but other locals threatened to kill it. So now it lived in this big cage and the owner came every day to give hugs and kisses on it. It was really beautiful to watch the love they had for each other. And instead of cocks crowing it was the banshee shrieking of the monkey that replaced the alarm here.       

We spent the last evening again with my next door neighbors, the Australian couple. They were leaving for Cambodia the next day while we would go back north to Champasak on their recommendation. A long and hard shower made the muddy road to the restaurant almost impassable and I was glad the we were leaving the island the next day. Yours, Pollybert

What I learned in Nepal

As done on many previous occasions here is a list of all the things I learned in Nepal:

1. Dogs here sleep during the day but bark all night (but then if they don’t bark at night the silence gets an eerie quality).

2. Toilet paper in a European managed hotel has by far superior quality.

3. Everything is better with a friendly smile and the Nepali are always smiling.

4. Sometimes all it takes is a bit of luck or 90 minutes.

5. Trekking is overrated. While I do appreciate the scenery, I prefer to race ahead and just arrive.

6. Nepali parents are co-parenting. I have seen as many fathers as mothers with their offspring.

7. Wifi that’s working is nothing more than amazing.

8. The media is always manipulating. We traveled through Nepal while my friends at home thougt the whole country was destroyed.

9. A walk through the jungle is not a piece of cake.

10. The scooters are driving on electricity. So beware of the stealth mode, they kill you silently from behind.

11. There is a lot of spitting going on. Try to get out of the spit line.

12. Sometimes the price you are willing to pay for something is a lot higher than the asking price (and as a general rule: after an earthquake there is no bargaining).

12. Main dishes in Nepal are Momos and Dal Bhat.