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Tourists favour Attapeu's historical attractions in Laos

Visitors to Attapeu province are expressing an increasing interest in places of cultural and archaeological interest, the Head of the Provincial Tourism Office, Mr Vixian Viengkeo, said recently.

It seems overseas tourists prefer this aspect of the province to visits to ethnic groups and ecotourism. The number of foreign visitors to Attapeu province is growing, up from around 3000 in 2000 to 16,000 in 2007, said Mr Vixian.

“People coming here have heard that some of the temples have an ancient and interesting history, such as Vat That in Xaysettha district and Vat Ongsensoukhalam in Sakhae village,” he said. “Visitors have a strong interest in visiting these historical temples.”

Photo: Temple in Attapeu

The bones of King Setthathirath are said to be buried at Vat That, which was built around 1579.

A local resident, Mr Bounthone Sythanonxay, 65, is trying to locate anyone in the area who might know anything about the era of King Setthathirath, who was born in 1534 and died at the age of 38.

Ancient Buddha images believed to have been buried for more than 400 years were unearthed last year at the temple, when 139 images were discovered near an old building where many others are stored. The find consisted of 56 gold statues, 54 made of silver and 29 made of copper, of different shapes and sizes.

Mr Vixian said both local and foreign visitors were also keen to see Vat Ongsensoukhalam, which houses a large Buddha image in the sim (temple hall).

This particular image is called Phachao-ongsen , a reference to its size. Locals believe the image is sacred and has special powers, and that they will be successful in their endeavours if they call on the image for help.

The sim is small and old. In the 1970s, American missiles bombed the village and villagers hid in the sim for safety.

“Today, the sim is the only original part of the temple still standing,” Mr Vixian said.

This year the provincial tourism office will develop archaeological sites, particularly building access roads.

Mr Vixian said the office would encourage local people to make handicrafts for sale and to preserve cultural activities for the benefit of tourists.

By phon thikeo

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