Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Jungle temple ruins

Don Daeng island, lying supine in the Mekong River, faces the town of Champasak. It’s home to the upmarket La Folie Lodge as well as a community lodge and homestays. Visitors come for the peace and quiet and the cycle rides through the paddies, past homes, wats and mooching buffaloes.
I set off on my bike ride a little too late in the morning. By 9am it’s steaming in these parts of Southern Laos; the sun is relentless and only cools its ardour around four in the afternoon. Don Daeng is 10 km long and 5 km wide but with near on zero shade between the couple of villages that line the island's hem. There are no cars on the island, just motorbikes and bicycles. The centre is a grid of paddies with the occasional wat; dozens of cows, chicken and geese mill about and new-born baby buffalo, snoozing on the ground, look at you doe-eyed if you wake them up with calling sounds. At the village of Ban Dan Thip on the northern strip, a boatman took me across the water to the Indiana-Jones temple of Tomo. Tomo temple is a 9th century Khmer temple, now a ruin and partially buried in jungle. The entrance doorway, remarkably, still stands, as do several structures of laterite bricks, but much of it has deteriorated and is an archetypical ‘lost ruin’. The ground is littered with naga sculptures and at the entrance to the ruins stands a larger, seven-headed naga monument.

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