This Wat is the most important attraction of South Laos, although it is not Laotian in origin. Wat Phou was built by the Khmer.
Despite of being smaller, Wat Phou can be compared to Angkor. Not only has it been built in the same style; it also exudes the same atmosphere of an ancient city lost in the jungles for uncounted centuries. While the structures themselves are overpowering, it's the jungle overgrowth that creates a particular charm, at Angkor as well as Wat Phou. The Wat has stood unused for centuries because it has been built as a Hindu, not a Buddhist temple.
Wat Phou is older than Angkor. It was founded in the first decades of the 9th century by Jayavarman II, the first king of an independent Khmer nation. Before Jayavarman II, the Khmer were ruled by the Javanese (Indonesians). For some time Wat Phou served Jayavarman II as Khmer capital.
Though Jayavarman II soon moved his government to the Angkor plain, Wat Phou remained an important pilgrim's destination for the entire Angkor era (about 600 years).
The Boloven plateau is a very fertile plain to the North of Pakse. Coffee and Durian are grown. Durians are harvested from May to July; at that time nowhere in the world Durians are cheaper than here. The most important town on the plateau is Paksong.
South Laos is home to a number of hill tribes descending from Southeast Asia's original inhabitants. These tribes are by far not as numerous as the Hmong (Meo), Karen or Akha, and most of them are on a lower level of civilization. But they were in Southeast Asia far earlier than the Vietnamese or the Thais (both migrants from central Asia), and earlier than other hill tribes.
The indigenous tribes, and their ancestors, belong to the Proto-Malay group of people, closer related to Malays than to Thais, Vietnamese and Chinese. Until around 800, before the rise of Angkor, Javanese (Indonesian) and Malay kingdoms ruled Southeast Asia.
Shortly before the Mekong crosses into Cambodia, it splits into countless branches, thus creating more than 4,000 river islands, the larger ones even inhabited. The distance between parallel branches reaches up to 14 kilometres. At high tide about half of the islands disappear under water. In between some of the islets water cascades over rocks, forming beautiful waterfalls. The largest of them, and actually the largest in all of Southeast Asia, is Khoug Phapheug.
This part of the Mekong is home to a rare species of freshwater dolphins. They grow to a length of 2.5 metres, and just like the dolphins of the sea, the river dolphins of the Mekong are said to have saved many people from drowning.
Laos: Laos Travel
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