Vat Phou or Wat Phu (Lao: ວັດພູ [wāt pʰúː] temple-mountain) is a ruined Khmer temple complex in southern Laos. It is located at the base of mount Phu Kao, some 6 km from the Mekong river in Champasak province. There was a temple on the site as early as the 5th century, but the surviving structures date from the 11th to 13th centuries. The temple has a unique structure, in which the elements lead to a shrine where a linga was bathed in water from a mountain spring. The site later became a centre of Theravada Buddhist worship, which it remains today.
Like most Khmer temples, Wat Phou is orientated towards the east. although the axis actually faces eight degrees south of due east, being determined primarily by the orientation of the mountain and the river. Including the barays it stretches 1.4 km east from the source of the spring, at the base of a cliff 100 m up the hill. 6 km east of the temple, on the west bank of the Mekong, lay the city, while a road south from the temple itself led to other temples and ultimately to the city of Angkor.
The facade of the sanctuary. The Buddha image inside is modern - the site is still used for religious worship today. Approached from the city (of which little remains), the first part of the temple reached is a series of barays. Only one now contains water, the 600 by 200 m middle baray which lies directly along the temples's axis; there were further reservoirs north and south of this, and a further pair on each side of the causeway between the middle baray and the palaces.
The two palaces stand on a terrace on either side of the axis. They are known as the north and south palaces or, without any evidence, the men's and women's palaces (the term "palace" is also a mere convention — their purpose is unknown). Each consisted of a rectangular courtyard with a corridor and entrance on the side towards the axis, and false doors at the east and west ends. The courtyards of both buildings have laterite walls; the walls of the northern palace's corridor are also laterite, while those of the southern palace are sandstone. The northern building is now in better condition. The palaces are notable chiefly for their pediments and lintels, which are in the early Angkor Wat style.