Vat Phou

The Ancient City, The Sanctuary and The Spring



Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape is the full name of this UNESCO World Heritage Site. The elements of the heritage, not only referred to the historical complex on the hill. However, the wide space on the plain between Mount Phou Kao and the Mekong.
History of Vat Phou is between 5th -14th century before Angkorian period that flourished in Cambodia by the Khmer empire. It was in the developing steadily as a Hindu temple in Saivism until the Khmer Empire loss their power, then was converted into a Buddhist monastery, Theravada, until today

Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements mainly composed of the ancient city, the sanctuary and the spring.

The Ancient City: a circa 5th century, presumably named Shrestapura, evidence from inscription found in the village refered to the king Devanika. From the last inscriptions mentioned a capital city is ruled by King Mahaendravarman. Later, as the ruler in the district called Sambor Prei Kuk, located in the territory of Cambodia, about 240km South-West.

On Champasak plain are temples, shrines, water tanks, water channels, quarries, historic field systems, settlement sites and an ancient road to Angkor.

The nearest historic site on the plain around 1km from Vat Phou is Nang Sida temple. If you have time please visit there, along the dirt road are paddy fields, villages and natural landscape of Champasak plain.

UNESCO Champasak Cultural Landscape Picturque from Vat Phou
The Sanctuary on Mount Phou Kao

Buddha-s Foot Print and Elephant Blocks

The Sanctuary: Although this region loss importance as the administrative centre of the Khmer Empire which expanded and moved to the centre of the kingdom in the land of Cambodia today, but the significance of Vat Phou was undeniable. It was also important for the famous kings such as King Jayavarman VII who donated money to maintain this temple.

The Vat Phou Complex as a sanctuary on the hill belonging to the 5th-6th century, by the present building built around the 11th century and some additions were added later.

“The most outstanding the sacred character of Vat Phou complex is the terraced Temple Complex lies at the foot of Phou Kao, stretching west-east to a freshwater spring on a rock terrace where the shrine was built. An axial line from the natural linga (phallic-like point) on the mountain summit through the shrine was used as the basis for the layout of the temple complex: it is 1,400 m long, with lakes as well as buildings to either side, bisected by an axial processional way”.- From UNESCO website

Vat Phou visit started from the reception area on the foot of Phou Kao where far from the two large barays. The golf carts will transfer visitors to the site of  2 barays where connected to the causeway lead you to the North palace and South palace located on the right hand side and left hand side. Both palaces have magnificent carved pediments and lintels in early Angkor Wat style.

From the palaces, you would have to climb up the hill through stairs and terraces on the way to the location of the sanctuary; you will see the amazing landscape of this cultural plain.

Holy Water from Spring Falling to Basin

The Spring: Behind the sanctuary near the foot of the cliff, you will see the dripping water along the carved tube to the basin. This is holy water from the ceiling of the rock shelter. Holy water has been sent to the sanctuary.

After visiting Vat Phou Complex, I had a chance to visit many main Ancient Khmer temples in Northeast of Thailand. Before Vat Phou was Angkor Archeological Park in Seam Reap, Cambodia. Among ancient Khmer temples in 3 countries, I can say I have fallen in love with Vat Phou. Their location is great! Champasak natural landscape is charming! 

Next time there, I won’t miss to spend a night or more at Champasak town a few km from Vat Phou site, the laid-back town along Mekong River, instead of staying at Pakse city.

Entrance fee 35,00 Kip / Museum entrance fee included
Golf cart 15,000 Kip
Car parking fee 5,000 Kip

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