Pakse is the capital city of Champasak province of Southern Laos, and the 2nd most populous in the country, serving as a major transport and trade link between Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. If you plan to go to the Bolaven Plateau, Wat Phou and Si Phan Don (4,000 Islands) the city will be your ideal headquarters. This is a riverside town, you can spend time watching the river and strolling along the delightful waterfront promenade. Some of the other reasons to visit Pakse include its authentic markets, stunning temples and the delicious street food stands that serve fresh local Laotian fare.
The Bolaven Plateau is one of the main reasons that many visitors find themselves in Pakse. The large plateau covered in rivers, majestic jungle and cascading waterfalls is one of the main tourist spots in Laos and home to the ethnic Laven group. The plateau is crossed by several rivers and has many scenic waterfalls, including Pha Suam, Tad Yuang, Tad Sae and Tad Lo waterfalls. Many travelers in the plateau overnight in Tad Lo, a village in Lao Ngam district, Salavan province. Mainly comprised of guest houses catering to those doing the Bolaven Plateau loop, this laid back place offers some great trekking routes.
Nestled between Cambodia and Laos, Si Phan Don or 4000 islands (pictured in banner) is a group of islands scattered in the Mekong River. Just some 3 hours from Pakse, the archipelago has a laidback vibe and sleepy vibe popular with tourists looking to go off the beaten path. The main islands are, by size: Don Kong, Don Som, Don Det and Don Khon. Some of the most popular activities here include biking, nature walks, boat excursions and, of course, doing nothing and relaxing by the majestic Mekong river.
The biggest and most beautiful temple of Pakse, and home to a Buddhist Monk Seminar. This temple has many beautiful paintings depicting the Buddha’s life and his his teachings. Stroll through the well-kept gardens and check out the intricately carved wooden doors. This is also an ideal place to see an alms giving ceremony as you may be one of a handful of tourists as opposed to the more popular ceremonies in Luang Prabang.
This huge market is about 2 kilometres south-east out of town on Road 13 near the Japanese bridge over the Mekong. Definitely take your walking shoes if you intend to see most of the market with endless rows of shirts, traditional skirts and jewelry stores, as well as a fish, meat and vegetable section. Most meat is sold early in the day before the heat gets to it, so get there early if you are interested in the bustle of traders, not that the the bustle slows down much for the rest of the day.
The former residence of Chao Bun Oum, the prince of Champasak, this opulent building was turned into a hotel in 1995. The building was abandoned in 1974 when the royal government was ousted by the Pathet Lao. We believe the site is well worth a visit due to its architecture and history, of course only in the case that you’re not staying here already.
Forget about sightseeing or peacefully walking through town, if you happen to come to Pakse during the three days of this festival at the end of October. Big paddling boats race on the Xe Don river and the city is overloaded with people and fair ground stalls with huge speakers selling a variety of food and clothing and some ridiculous items like trucks or machetes. Gambling seems to be legit even for children during these crazy days; keep an eye out for the small tables with different ways to lose your money. You can shoot air rifles at ‘local’ prices like bottles of fish sauce or try to figure out by what rules the fight and drum contests are scored. If you can stand the weather, there will be no reason to go elsewhere.