Angkor-era splendour on the Vat Phou cruise
While many other visitors are marvelling at neighbouring Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat, this elegant Colonial-style riverboat slips down the Mekong River through the jungles of Laos, to visit another ancient Khmer temple complex. World Heritage site Vat Phou is regarded as one of that mighty culture’s finest legacies, and the scenic, uncrowded site offers a superb day of exploration after the leisurely trip downriver from Champasak.
What to expect on the Vat Phou Cruise...
A sacred site for at least 1,600 years, Vat (or 'Wat') Phou’s surviving buildings were constructed between AD 1000-1200, and an ancient road connects the complex to Angkor, 150 miles to the south-west. Vat Phou’s position commands tremendous views over the Mekong, and on the plains below it an ancient city, even older than the temple, lies half buried in the tropical undergrowth.
Initially Hindu, the temple was later converted to Buddhist use - the site is still used for Buddhist worship, with Buddha iconography now occupying some of the shrines. Astonishingly well-preserved carvings of Vishnu and Krishna remain, however, and there is much stonework depicting Hindu deities and their stories.
Vat Phou sits at the base of a sacred peak, and its most sacred sanctuaries sit on the foothills, with outstanding views down over the ruins and across the fertile plain, the Mekong River flowing through it, bringing nutrients from hundreds of miles away.
The beautifully converted teak barge that will be home throughout this Experience departs from Pakse, and makes it way along the Mekong through the scenic Champasak Province, defined by dramatic open landscapes and craggy, forest-capped mountains.
With its handful of pretty wood-lined cabins and comfortable panoramic viewing deck, the boat captures the best of old Indochina… with a reassuringly modern hull beneath. Having explored Vat Phou, continue downriver to the superlatively relaxing Si Phan Don region, otherwise known as ‘4,000 Islands’. You'll travel as far south as Khone Phapheng, the impressive waterfall that heralds the Mekong's imminent crossing from Laos into Cambodia.
Location: near Pakse, southern Laos
Duration: three days
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'An astonishing example of Khmer architectural prowess, and much less crowded than Angkor.'