Vat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasak Cultural Landscape :: Video

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Narration Text

Jantai is happy to be living with her husband and our three children family in a village at the foot of the sacred mountain Phou Kao, in Champasak Province, Laos. They live in a high-floored house to escape the heat. Jantai is preparing to make some rice noodles known here as “Khao Poun” to sell in town. It takes a lot of effort to make Khao Poun.

This is my sweet husband, Viengkam. Usually we make Khao Poun together and then I sell it in town. To make Khao Poun, they first put dough made from rice powder in a basket and steam it. This is Phou Kao mountain ahead. It was the Khmer people who started worshipping this mountain as sacred. They built a Hindu temple known as “Vat Phou”, which means mountain temple. The approach leading to the temple is lined with statues of “Lingam”, a sacred Hindu symbol. “Vat” means a temple and “Phou” a mountain. So the name “Vat Phou” means “a mountain temple”.

As in most Hindu temples, a sculpture of Shiva is carved in the gate along with Rahu. In Hinduism, Rahu is a demon known for eating everything. Shiva is holding Rahu down to stop him bringing evil into the temple. The temple’s main chamber is located on the mountainside. The building has decayed over a long period of time. Strangely, there is a Buddha statue inside the Hindu temple. It has been enshrined by the Lao people and is treated as an object of worship. People make regular offerings here.

The Mekong River runs at the foot of the mountain. Since long ago, the great Mekong River has served as a major artery transporting religion, culture, and many other things. No bridge was ever built over the river but ferries run frequently.

Once the ferry arrives, Jantai’s colleague goes aboard to sell Khao Poun. One bowl costs about 30yen; it is a popular snack in Laos. Watched over by the sacred Phou Kao mountain, I work hard making Kao Phoun every day. We all share this foot-operated mortar together. Steamed rice powder is pounded to make soft dough, and then put in this purpose-made can. There are many small holes in the bottom of this can and when dough is pushed from the top with a wooden tool it comes out through these small holes and……becomes delicious noodles.

Kao Phoun noodles are bound in small bunches. Jantai and her family do not earn much and life can be difficult but they are grateful that they can live peacefully with Buddha’s blessing at the foot of this sacred mountain.

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