ChampassakChampassak, in the south of Laos, is largely unexplored by tourists. Stretching along the west bank of the Mekong, it offers a legacy of Khymer culture that predates Angkor Wat by some 200 years.
Wat Phu, which dates back to the 6th to 8th centuries, is one of the archeological wonders of Asia. It is now being restored by UNESCO. Originally built at the base of a sacred mountain -- a symbol of Siva to the Hindus -- Wat Phu became a Buddhist shrine in later centuries. Its grand processional causeway, which leads to a steep ascent to its mountain temples, may have inspired the entrance to Angkor Wat.
Pilgrims come in February for the Wat Phu Festival. They leave offerings and engage in various competitions including bull fighting.
The "Four Thousand Islands" of southern Laos, where the Mekong reaches its widest point, is home to waterfalls and rapids, fishing villages and pakha, the fresh water dolphin.
Jewels of the Mekong
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