Savanaket, Pakse and Wat Phu Champasak oh my...
[ed: excuse the lateness of the post, the internet connection in Pakse was very flakey so I haven't been able to post it till I arrived in Cambodia]
I arrived in Savanaket on 4th, After an 8 hour bus ride - It's a funny little town (well not that little) with a rather more grand "mirror image" across the other side of the Mekong, where it's sister town in Thailand resides, Mukdahan.
After grabbing a room at the Nong Soda I went for a bit of a walk before the sun went down - which was pretty cool, as the crumbling french colonial architecture is best viewed with a soft and slightly more forgiving light ;o) Basically Savanaket seems to be personified by red dust, tables by the mekong serving beer and meat on a stick to locals with their Honda "wave" scooters parked near by, small children letting off home made bamboo fireworks on the riverside and lines of trucks parked by the wharf, waiting to get the barge across to Thailand (as of yet the Bridge is still not finished between the two sides of the Mekong, though it only looks to be a year or two off completion)
That night we went in hunt of the "Cafe de Paris" - apparently it's the best food in town - apparently it also doesn't seem to be open any longer - so we settled for the slightly less cool, "Cafe Paris", or something to that effect - which served fairly
blah food - but what can you expect with the "de" - the hi-light of my meal was when I got a pottle of icecream from their freezer for desert, peeled back the paper lid and discovered it had already been half eaten - thankfully the lady running the joint
replaced it ;o)
In the morning I took in the amazing sights of the Dinosaur Museum (It's worth a look because umm.. well... it's small and convenient placed?) and then went for a long meandering walk, eventually stopping by the Mekong-side and having a baked fish
with sticky rice for breakfast - shortly after I started on my meal I was accosted by a couple of Laos guys who were studying English, and who desperately wanted to practice on me - I think I ended up talking for almost 2 hours before finally making a
polite exit (though it was quite interesting, they were shocked at my age.. 25 and not married ... for shame!)
That afternoon I jumped a bus to Pakse, about 6 hours - and then got an ok'ish single room for $4 - though the fan seems pretty ineffective against the night time heat here... slept maybe 4 hours total last night? Though it could be because of the 3
bottles of M-150 I drank that day.. which kinda tastes a bit like "Top secret" (do they still even make that stuff?... Then went out to dinner at "Delta Coffee" - where I got a nice chicken and green pepper fettucine and garlic bread... western food, tsk tsk.. It was good though.
And then this morning I got up and shared a Tuk Tuk with Charlotte to Wat Phu Champasak, which is about an hours trip from Pakse - the best part of the journey is getting the "car ferry" across the Mekong, as it's just 3 small boats (the centre one
twice the size of the "outriggers") with a large wooden platform stuck across it - cars drive on to the structure from the sides, and at one end is a garden shed masquerading as an engine room, and at the other end you normally get a wheel "house" with
accompanying pot plant. I didn't get any good pictures of them, but at some point I'll post what I got. They're pretty funny to look at ;o)
After crossing the river you end up in Champasak, and Wat Phu Champasak is about a 10 to 15 minute drive from their.
Wat Phu Champasak
So ... Wat Phu Champasak, what is it? Well basically it's the archealogical site of a temple structure dating back to pre-Angkor times, built by the original Khmer people - It stretches in a reasonably straight line heading up a hill (with some quite tricksome stairs) and offers great views and some very precarious looking structures that will probably fall down if they have a bit of a shake. It's overgrown with trees and a lot of it's collapsed but it really does look (and feel) great, or should I say old and grand - it's got quite an unusual atmosphere. Interestingly it's a bit of a mix 'n match, with what appears to be animal worship, hinduism and eventually Buddhist's all making use of and extending the sites. Basically this will all sound like drivel till I post some pictures, but I thought it was pretty sweet.
Tomorrow I'm heading down to Don Khong (with a g, there's also Don Khon... which is apparently nicer, but doesn't have electrickery 24x7) to hang out for a while before crossing into Cambodia, I think there needs to be some coffee and beer drank while sitting in the sun.