Pakse is the provincial capital of Champasak and is one of the most Thai-like towns in all of Laos. Until recently most travellers and backpackers tended to use it as a transit point and little else. Tourism infrastructure here is less developed than the more popular north, making it a bit harder to explore, but Champasak province has much to offer -- and Pakse is an ideal base to explore much of it from.
Pakse doesn't measure up to the low-key splendour of Luang Prabang, but nevertheless it has a definite charm, some beautiful wats and two gorgeous rivers -- great for enjoying some eats and drinks by the waterside and watching the sun smolder into the horizon.
Pakse in recent times has made a transition from transit point to staging area -- the Lao government has put a lot of careful work into cultivating new, ecologically friendly and quite well-regulated tourist destinations that combine the adventure of exploring the unknown with the convenience of regular and reliable services. You can easily spend a week or so just making day trips and overnights from Pakse and winding up right back in town to plan the next stage of your journey.
Pakse over the years has become so modern and comfortable for many travelling through Laos that many do now indeed come here to hang out,recharge their batteries and pick up information. And it's easy to do with a decent guesthouse scene, some good food and excellent local hospitality.
The province is best known for the spectacular Khmer ruins at Wat Phuand the stunning cluster of islands near the Cambodian border known as Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands). You'll also find stunning waterfalls rimming the Bolaven Plateau, and you'll get a glimpse into authentic, traditional Laotian life on the island of Don Daeng near Champasak town, making a tour of the region well worth the extra effort.
Travellers should be prepared to spend longer in this province than expected. Besides the excellent hospitality of the locals, there's a growing list of worthwhile things to do. Another reason is the rather slow pace of public transportation. Although Champasak has generally good roads, as in much of Laos the transport that runs along them does so at its own creaky pace, loaded to the roof with more goods and baggage than people, making frequent stops along routes that offer a small selection of daily departures.
Partly as a response to the slow buses, motorbikes have become a popular alternative and are easily rented in the provincial capital of Pakse. For those so inclined, this is recommended, as it will allow you to better explore the province without spending half your time sorting out departure times, waiting in terminals, and languishing on long, slow bus journeys. Increasingly, group package tours offer to take care of some of these hassles for you, but nothing can beat stopping off at a roadside food stall in the middle of nowhere, or coursing down back roads along streams and canals through fields of rice against a scenic backdrop of mountains.
Many backpackers and travellers to Champasak province elect to head straight down to Si Phan Don to while away a few days in a hammock, but for those with more time on their hands, Champasak and Pakse are well worth more than a cursory glance.
Si Phan Don (The 4000 islands)
A riverine archipelago located in the Mekong River, Champasak Provincein southern Laos. Si Phan Don is characterised by numerous islands, half of which are submerged when the Mekong River is in flood. The principal islands of Si Phan Don are Don Khong (the largest), and Don Det and Don Khon.
Si Phan Don is a magical and unique place where you can mingle with the Laotian village in a quiet location on the banks of the Mekong river. One of the main attractions of the 4000 islands of the Mekong's water, both the Mekong River and the falls in the area, beyond the beautiful natural landscapes and history of the period of French Indochina, this region of southern Laos not has more tourist value.
A large area of southern Laos that encompasses the provinces of Champasak (Pakse) and the province of Saravanh. With an average altitude of 1000 metres above the level of the sea and mountains, the Bolaven Plateau is known for its coffee plantations, rivers and water falls.
- Coffee Plantation
Coffee plantations on the Bolaven Plateau are relatively recent, early last century, formerly in Laos is planting the tree of the rubber and banana trees.
The specialty of this area of Laos is coffee Arabica and Robusta coffee. Reportedly, the Bolaven Plateau produces one of the more expensive arabica coffee beans in the world.
Although coffee is the soul of the Bolaven Plateau, this corner of Laos also high-quality tea and aroma.
There are many waterfalls and rivers that make up the area of Laos, Bolaven plateau, all the falls of exceptional beauty and magical surroundings. These are the most famous waterfalls of Bolaven Plateau: Tad Fane (also called cataracts Tad Fan) falls, the Tad Lo waterfalls, Tad Hang and Tad Suong, (known as Tad Yeang) Tad Yuang falls, the falls E - Tu (called Tat Cham Pee and Tat Katamtok) and Cliff Phaxuam cliff. In the Lao language "Tad" means waterfall, hence all the Bolaven Plateau Waterfalls are called Tad.Tad Fane
The Tad Fane falls are the most impressive of the entire plateau Bolaven Plateau. It's 2 streams of water with a drop of more than 100 meters high. The falls are located on the road from Pakse to Pakxong kilometre 38, in the area of the falls has been built a resort called Tad Fane resort.Tad Yuang Falls
Located just 2 miles from the Tad Fane falls we have beautiful Tad Yuang falls, also called Tad Yeang and Tad Gneuang waterfalls. It's a waterfall with ladder located at kilometer 40 of the road between Pakse and Pakxong.Tad Lo, Tad Hang and Tad Suong falls
In the vicinity of the village of Tad Lo have 3 beautiful cataracts: cataracts Tad Hang, Tad Lo and Tad Suong. This small town in the province of Saravanh is a required stop on the visit to the plateau of the Bolaven Plateau, not by its tourist attraction but because scarcely 10 km can enjoy these 3 waterfalls.E-Tu falls
The falls E-Tu are also known with the names of Tat Cham Pee cataracts and waterfalls Tat Katamtok. Falls furthest from Pakse, 48 kilometers from Pakxong, is what makes falls E - Tu in the less tourist falls from the Bolaven Plateau, however those who decide to move up to Tat Katamtok can explore a trail for hiking, the Ho Chi Minh Trail (Ho Chi Minh trail).Cliff Phaxuam
Halfway between the city of Pakse and Tad Lo waterfalls is located the Cliff Phaxuam cliff, a small national park where besides the falls, we can mount elephant and see firsthand how they live the ethnic groups of Laos.
In the Champasak Plains, on the outskirts of Pakse, we have the complex Vat Phou. It's ruins, Temple, shrine and Museum of Khmer civilization at the foot of the mountain Phu Kao, with more than 1000 years old, reminiscent in some ways to the famous temples of Angkor.
The Vat Phou Temple, also called Wat Phou or Wat Phu in Laotian, was declared World Heritage site by UNESCO in 2001.
Vat Phou complex rises on the banks of the Mekong River, between a stream and mountain Phu Kao, with a geometric shape perfect using natural elements such as axes. This city pre-angkoriana expresses the Hindu vision of the fusion between man and nature and is one of the best examples in the development of the Khmer civilization Laos during the V to the 15th.
French bridge Pakse
Located to the West of the city of Pakse, over the Sedone (Xe Don River) River we have the French from Pakse bridge, traversed by the main road from Pakse, Highway 13
At the foot of the French from Pakse bridge and Riverside Sedone is the largest and most beautiful of Pakse, the temple Wat Luang Temple. This temple is now the School of monks, it is very common to see Lao monks with its distinctive Orange tunic in the surrounding area.
The best views of Old french punte Pakse and Xe Don river or river Sedone, find them in the back of the temple Wat Luang, which in turn live the monks and the local population tends to go fishing Pakse.
Champasak Provincial Museum
Located on the main road from Pakse, Highway 13, the Champasak provincial Museum is a small museum where artifacts Champa of bronze, jewelry, and textiles are exhibited. The most interesting Museum is a model of Wat Phu.
The Champasak provincial Museum is open every day from the 8: 30 to 11:30 and from 13:30 until 16:00. The entrance fee is 10,000 kip (about 1€).
On the outskirts of Pakse, on the way to the North bus station in the city is Pakse Stadium, stadium with capacity of 5000 spectators where soccer is played regularly.
Apart from playing football, there is a gym in the stadium of Pakse.
Another great Temple of Pakse is Wat Phabad, it is the oldest Buddhist temple in Pakse, the roadside 13 on the way to the Champasak Museum.
The temple Wat Phabad is visible and recognizable from the road by their colorful structures by way of small stupas. These structures are funerary monuments.
Pakse is one of most important in the South of Laos and therefore, very well connected with the rest of cities in Laos and also the neighbouring countries (Thailand, Cambodia and Viet Nam).
On the outskirts of Pakse, on the west side of the city, is the Pakse International Airport where the airline Lao Airlines is the only airline that operates flights with origin or destination Pakse. The airport is very close to the city centre, just a 5-minute tuk-tuk.
Buses to and from Pakse
The city of Pakse has excellent bus communications. Expensive tickets, prices low-cost of the bus and night busmakes bus transport most popular medium to move by Laos.
There are 4 stations of buses in Pakse:
- Chitpasong bus station: also called bus station VIP or Pakse central station. It is located in the heart of the city of Pakse, a few meters from Pakse Hotel and the new market Tang Frères.
- Kriang Kai bus station: popularly known by the nickname of the 2 km bus station. On some maps of Pakse is called at this point the station Kieng Kai.
- North of Pakse station: located 10 km outside of Pakse.
- South of Pakse station: commonly 8 km station, place where buses depart to the 4000 Islands of the Mekong.
Motorbike and Bicycle Pakse
One of the best ways to get around Pakse and its surroundings is by bike, to visit the plateau Bolaven Plateau will be necessary to rent a bike. In the Centre of Pakse, on the same road 13 may rent bicycles for 10,000 kip / day (1€) and also rent motorbike for 60,000 kip / day (6€).
Rent a car in Pakse
For a larger group of people who want to visit the surroundings of Pakse (Vat Phu for example) an interesting option is to rent a car with or without driver.