Ancient stupa in Champassak set to attract visitors

Champassak (Vientiane Times/ANN) - The stupa is 400 years older than the Vat Phou World Heritage Site and is also thought to be older than Angor Wat in Siem Reap.

The Vat Phou World Heritage Office in Champassak province in southwestern Laos is gearing up to submit a newly discovered Hindu-era stupa to the provincial governor’s office for approval as a new tourist attraction.

Head of the Vat Phou World Heritage Office, Oudomsy Keosaksith, spoke to Vientiane Times yesterday during a visit by Deputy Minister of Information, Culture and Tourism Savankhone Razmountry and his team to the provincial department. He said the stupa had been found at Nongdinchi temple on Phou Malong mountain in Phonthong district.

“The stupa is 400 years older than the Vat Phou World Heritage Site and is also thought to be older than Angor Wat in Siem Reap,” he said.

“The stupa is ornately decorated in the Hindu style, which has not been seen anywhere other than the Vat Phou heritage site.”

Vat Phou was built between the 5th and 7th centuries.

Officials are readying documents for submission to the governor’s office, requesting that the site be designated one of the province’s cultural, historical and natural sites.

The office will then submit an application to the government to consider the stupa as a national heritage site.

The site is important and of interest to visitors because Phou Malong mountain also has an association with Miss Malong who was a character in Lao literature. The mountain is located along the Mekong River and is an attraction in itself due to its scenic beauty.

The stupa has close connections to the culture of the area and to the Hindu era.

“We are asking the authorities in Phonthong district to help with the preservation and protection of the stupa and to make sure no one builds anything on the site. The road to the mountain is in poor condition and will need to be improved if we want to open the site as a tourist attraction,” Oudomsy said.

If the site is officially declared a visitor attraction, it should be linked to other tourist sites in Champassak.

The province is working to develop its tourist sites in a bid to draw more visitors, he added. Deputy Head of the province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Mala Chanthala, said the province had 216 official tourist sites, of which 116 were of scenic or natural interest, 60 are of cultural interest and 40 are historical in nature. In 2016 the province received more than 621,000 visitors.