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Tuesday, December 10: Day 232 – Vat Phou

Most of Kai’s clients are from Thailand, France, Germany, Belgium, Korea, or Japan. He does not get many Americans.

We see a tok-tok which is more of a tractor than a mode of transportation. It is called tok-tok based on the noise that it makes.

And here is a flower display using a hammock. Perhaps that is where the term bed of roses comes from.

We were taken to the entrance of Vat Phou temple by a golf cart limousine.

The Hindu naga looks like a cobra with a rounded face and no teeth.

The Laos naga looks like a ferocious python.

The first thing that we see at this UNESCO site are the sacred lakes on the left and the right of the stone lotus pillar lined entrance. In the early days fresh lotus flowers were placed in the path. One side is for the bathing and purification of men. The other side for women. A naga snake marks the entrance.

Lotus flowers lined the walkway that was only for the king. Everyone else walked outside the walkway.

Tradition required human sacrifice. In the beginning they used a volunteer which would bring good fortune to the family of the donor. Later (probably because no one volunteered or the promised good fortune didn’t happen to the previous donor’s family), someone was chosen by lot. Eventually, a prison was built to hold the humans bound for sacrifice. Here is an indentation of a crocodile where the sacrificial human lay. Kai is pointing where the blood runs out.

The blood is collected and poured into the mouth of the mountain.

On the Bolaven plateau ethnic minority still sacrifice animals but no more humans as in the past.

When the Hindus built this complex, guest houses existed where people could begin their journey to the top by meditation, sleep and meet in the open space around the fire.

Restoration of these guest houses has been done by India and France.

This temple was built around the same time as Angkor Wat. It took one century to build around the 10th to the 12th century. It was built by royals for the gods. There is an ancient road to Angkor Wat running 150 miles. It was constructed for religious purposes.

The sacred spring of the animists was determined to be the best place to build the temple by the Khmer king. This Hindu temple then added Buddhist teachings in the 13th century. Therefore, this site is a blending of three religious practices. The god in back is Hindu with Buddha in front.

This temple was never lost. It was not affected by war.

There are seven levels with 11 steps on each level. On the steep climb up, one needs good heart and good lungs. On the way down, one needs good knees and good luck.

On this walk to paradise, the first level is the ocean, then the earth and finally reaching paradise. At this highest level, it is said that one can see the whole world.

At the apex is a sacred spring for healing. This is the main reason for the location of this temple. It was a sacred place for the animists.

Did the Hindus build it here believing that it was sacred land or to squelch local animist beliefs and convert them to Hinduism?? The result seemed to be a combination of beliefs.

Although Hinduism has over 1,000 deities, here are the big three from left to right: Brahmin the Creator, Shiva the Destroyer, and Vishnu the Protector.

Hindu gods came to the earth as humans to kill the demons. Torany is mother of the earth. I am not sure where she fits in.

Hibiscus is the national flower of Malaysia. Frangipani is the national flower of Laos.

It is planted along the entrance and the flowers fall along our ascent.

Frangipani is planted in monk compounds as the fragrance from the flower is said to reduce the sexual desire of the male. Rob tried his best to not inhale deeply!!!

Angkor Wat is the only temple that looks west. All other Hindu temples like this one look east. Angkor Wat was dedicated to Vishnu and others are dedicated to Shiva. It is generally accepted that Angkor Wat was built as a temple AND a mausoleum. And we thought that a multi-purpose building is a 20th century idea!!

The Buddhist festival called Vat Phou is celebrated here on the third full moon. Many Lao come here to celebrate.

When one sees a baby, it is expected that it would be called an ugly baby. If the baby was said to be lovely, a demon would come and take it away. The same applies to stupa comments that are quite beautifully designed, but one is to comment how ugly it is so the deceased ancestor is not a target for the demon. Fortunately, this doesn’t apply to the fragile egos of teens.

When there is a sickness, one has three choices: hospital, clinic, and shaman. It depends how much money one has.

The shaman will put water in his mouth followed by extinguishing a candle in it and then spit on the sick person. It works half the time…mostly psychological or time heals.

We are on Khong Island, and we stop at a place where a man harvests and sells palm sugar candy. He climbs up these bamboo ladders two times day.

There is a fermentation process. Both the flower and the fruit are usable but for different products. Here the flower is being put in smoked bamboo sticks.

There is a boiling process as with most sugar processes. They are poured into these biodegradable molds and then…

…the final product. He gave us a piece to try. It was sweet and tasted like brown sugar.

Kai would pray at each Buddha…and there were a lot of them. Here is a big gold Buddha with triplet Buddhas in various poses in front.

He would get on his knees and bow down three times showing respect three times. First to Buddha (the man), then the Dharma (teachings), and lastly to the sanga (community) of monks.

If he said a prayer and there was a gong, he would ring it to send the prayers off.

Sometimes he would throw perfume oil on the statues.

I asked him what it was, and he put some on my wrist…and Rob’s wrist! We smelled pretty good.

Tomorrow is a full moon day which is Buddha Day and the monks are out tidying up their compounds as the entire village comes to temple.

They prepare personally by shaving their heads.

We drive by rice fields that they were starting to burn.

We are beginning to understand why so many Asians wore face masks.

We had to cross the river by ferry. Here is how a motorcycle gets across.

Here comes a car. They have built a platform across three boats.

The boat swings around and the car disembarks.

We end our day at a beautifully located hotel overlooking the Mekong River. There were TWO swimming pools. They were cold. Rob got in.

I was starting to get a cold so I opted instead for a long relaxing BATH. How exciting!!

Only kidding. There was no hot water. Nevermind!

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