Vat Phu (or Wat Phu) is a Lao word meaning "Mountain Temple", and is a world heritage site by UNESCO since 2002.
It is located at the foot of the holy mountain, call Phu Kao in Champassak southern Laos,
and is the oldest historical site of worship in our country having been built over 1,500 years ago.
The ancient city of Vat Phu measures around 2km x 1.8km and the Khmers (whose descendants are todays Cambodians), are first known to have lived here. They then moved to the city of Angkor and built Angkor Wat (which is in present day Cambodia) because the city of Wat Phu lost its role as a capital. After repeated raids by the Thais, Angkor was abandoned in 1434 and the capital moved to Phnom Penh.
Besides all the Hindu stuff, Buddha statues and representations are also found at Vat Phu because it eventually became the home of Fa Ngum and today it still remains as a buddhist temple. For those who have never heard of Fa Ngum, to make a long story short he is a Lao prince who married a Khmer princess, her name is Nang Keo Kanlayany and he became the first crowned King of Laos who created the Kingdom of Lane Xang (A million Elephants).
There are two huge ruined temples at the bottom of the Phou Kao mountain and they were built of brick and stone and filled with stonecut images. It is believed that one is a "men's palace" and the other is a "women's palace" and the two ponds nearby are a bathing area for men and the other for women.
There is a staircase and pathway (all made out of stone) that leads to the top of the mountain where there are other smaller temples that are collapsing or have gone due to old age. There is a also a spring water dripping down from the mountain and carvings on the massive stones which suggest that the rocks were carved from here to build the temples. On top of the mountain, you can see the Mekong River in a far distance, absolutely beautiful.
They've rebuilt the pathway at Vat Phu with the remains of the old rocky pieces to make it close to what it used to look like in ancient times. Interestingly, Vat Phu is the area of the first Khmer civilization and alot more ancient than Angkor Wat but many foreigners don't even know about Vat Phu, it is ridiculously lesser known than Angkor Wat to the world.
We've been to see Vat Phu many times because it is an amazing historical site and we never get bored of it. Just to see and touch a piece of Khmer and Lao history feels like going back in time, and thinking wow how on earth did they do all this!