Champasak (or Champasak) as once, 1400 years ago, was the centre of power in the lower Mekong basin, later a revered outpost of the Khmer Angkor empire and, later still, one of the three kingdoms to rule over the remains of Lane Xang. It is a fine heritage that, according to the last prince of Champasak, was brought to hard times by a former queen's indiscretion.
The beautiful Nang Pao ruled over Champasak in the mid-17th century. But it's lonely at the top and the queen found comfort in the arms of a prince from a neighboring kingdom. Alas, for the lady's pennyroyal was ineffective, and Nang Pao fell pregnant. A great scandal ensued and, though the queen remained in power and was succeeded by her illegitimate daughter, Nang Peng, the unhappy Nang Pao decreed that all unmarried mothers in the kingdom must sacrifice a buffalo for their sins. The practice survived in some local communities until the 1980s, the unfortunate women being known as 'Nang Pao's Daughters.
Though the Kingdom of Champasak prospered for a while after the final dissolution of Lane Xang, at the beginning the 18th century, its fortunes faltered quickly and it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. For its part in Chao Anou's abortive attempt to win freedom from the Siamese for the Lao kingdoms, Champasak lost all of its territory east of the Mekong. Under French rule the once mighty kingdom became a mere administrative block; its royalty stripped of many of its privileges.
"With an unmarried mother as queen," Prince Boun Oum na Champasak, the last of the kingdom's royal line, once said. "Everything started so badly that the game was lost before it began."
Boun Oum, who died in French exile in 1980, may have griped about his family's downfall (though he was not a direct descendent of Nang Pao), but it did not stop him from using his remaining royal privileges to loot the nearby Wat Phu. The magnificent Angkorian temple complex was recently made a UNESCO heritage site and is considered one of the finest Angkor-inspired edifices outside of Cambodia.
This is one of the main political and economic centers of Lao PDR and situated in the southwestern part of Laos, which the capital of Champasak is Pakse located at the confluence of the Mekong and the Sedon rivers. Southeast Asia's biggest waterfall, Khone Pha Pheng, is within easy reach by boat or by road. People of Champasak province settle along the bank of Kong Se Done river. In this province you will find ancient temples which were influenced from the Angkor in Cambodia.
There are many different minorities in Champasak. They have their own language, cultures and life styles.
Champasak lush, fertile land encouraged rice cultivation. It's one of the largest producers of rice in the country. Parts of Bolaven Plateau, which rest on the border of Saravane and Champasak are used for cultivation of coffee, cardamom, bananas, and other crops. Other parts, however, still offer pristine nature, especially in the mountainous central part constituting Dong Hua Sao Forest reserve, a proposed protected area which has dense jungle and abundant wild animal life. It locates at Phapho Village: located 67 km south of Pakse on the road No.13.
When the water level falls back again in the dry season, thousands of small islands rise from the river, giving the area the name Si Phan Done (4000 islands). The biggest island with 55,000 inhabitants is Done Khong, a peaceful place for an overnight visit. Several waterfalls drop over the escarpment. Some of the most spectacular are Tat Phan with height of 120 meters and Khon Pha Pheng.
Another interesting island in this area is Done Khone, where the French built a 14 km long railway to by pass the rapids. Visitors can follow the old railway line, view an old locomotive, pass a massive French built bridge and watch a series of huge rive cascades called Tat Somphamit, also know as the Li Phi falls.
From the southern tip of Done Khone a small island is accessible from which Irrawaddy dolphins can be watched during the dry season and it is exited only on place in Asia. Mekong Dolphin Conservation Center is located on Done Khone Island. Tourists are welcome to visit the center. To visit the center, visitors must go by road to Bane Veunkham village and then take a boat north a few kilometers to the center.
Wat Phou, one of the most important sights in Laos, is located 46 km south of Pakse. Wat Phou literally means mountain temple. The different levels of the temple structure, built along the slope of the adjacent mountain, date from the 6th century to the Angkor period of the 9th to 13th century.
champasak watphuThe upper platform of the temple affords a wonderful view of the Mekong plain. Energetic visitors may want to climb the near by Phou Passak, whose peak is shaped like a lingam or Shiva phallus. Another Khmer monument, Muang Tomo or Oum Moung, can be visited on the opposite side of the Mekong. It is, however, less accessible than Wat Phou.
The area has the remains of an ancient Khmer stone temple on Mount Phou Asa. At the most southwestern tip of Laos, along the Cambodian border, the Mekong river reaches its maximum breadth of 14 km (during the rainy season).