Fodor's Expert Review Wat Phu
This temple sits grandly on heights above the Mekong River, about 8 km (5 miles) south of Champasak, looking back on a centuries-old history that won it UNESCO recognition as a World Heritage Site. Wat Phu predates Cambodia's Angkor Wat—Wat Phu's hilltop site was chosen by Khmer Hindus in the 6th century AD, probably because of a nearby spring of freshwater. Construction of the wat continued into the 13th century, at which point it finally became a Buddhist temple. Much of the original Hindu sculpture remains unchanged, however, including representations on the temple's lintels of the Hindu gods Vishnu, Shiva, and Kala. The staircase is particularly beautiful, its protective nagas (mystical serpents) decorated with plumeria, the national flower of Laos. Many of the temple's treasures, including pre-Angkor–era inscriptions, are preserved in an archaeology museum that is part of the complex. An impressive festival takes place at the temple each January.