CHAMPASSAK, LAOS, April 10, 2018 (Borneo bulletin by Phomphong Laoin): At this time of the year when the weather is fine, plenty of people arrive at Vat Phou Champassak to explore this extensive Hindu temple complex and wander among the ruins. Their enjoyment of the site will be able to continue long into the future thanks to an international team of experts who are constantly working to restore and preserve the many structures that make up the temple complex. Last week, I attended the “5th International Coordination Meeting Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champassak Cultural Landscape,” supported by the Embassy of the Republic of India to Laos.
Vat Phou, meaning “temple of the mountain,” is situated in the south of Laos on the banks of the Mekong River, about 62 miles north of the Cambodian border. Vat Phou is dedicated to the Hindu Deity Shiva and is one of the most significant architectural sites anywhere in Southeast Asia, on par with Cambodia’s Angkor Wat. Vat Phou was a key location in the emergence of the region’s ancient kingdoms. An important city, one of the capitals of the ancient Khmer Kingdom long before Angkor was founded, flourished on the banks of the Mekong during the 5th Century. The monumental Vat Phou complex was built mostly on the slopes of a mountain which was considered sacred and dominates the valley. However, the remains of the buildings still visible today mostly date from the 11th and 12th Centuries.