Wat Po Champasak: The Temple Sentinel of Laos

Lying dormant at the southern tip of Laos is Wat Po Champasak. Long since a centre of spiritual activity, its role these days is that of a sentinel. A guardian of ancient yore, a remnant of a bygone age, barely comprehensible as time inexorably melts away.

Unlike the powerhouses of its neighbours – Wat Po in Bangkok, Cambodia’s Angkor Wat or the Javanese stupas of Borobudur – here is a megalith left to the ravages of history. As the encroaching lichen carves its own psychedelic swirl on the now defunct halls and staircases, the husk of what once was retreats further from the light.

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Such is the throb of residual energy, however, that Wat Po’s pulse is never truly extinguished. Instead, it regroups and envelops its surroundings. To its rear lies a mountain and before it a plateau stretches into the horizon. The attitude is one of supplication: much like the adherents of yore, the countryside seems cowed, afraid to witness the temple directly. The feeling of cool limbic intelligence is never far from the surface, as though an alligator observing its prey from a distance. 

Visitors needn’t worry – the site has long since passed into dormancy – but there still remains the flicker of life, as inextinguishable as it is reborn.

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