Founded by the French in 1905 and runner up for the most popular city in Laos (behind the capital city Vientiane of course), Pakse was the capital city in the province of Champasak until it was unified with the rest of Laos. Pakse still has a very French old world charm about it. It sits on the confluence of the Mekong and Don (Se Don) rivers, and is a great place to relax before exploring southern Laos.
Population: Just over 88,000
Vibe: Pakse is pretty chilled as far as cities go. It has a historical charm to it, but its growth in tourism is apparent with the opportunity to book tours on every block. It is a perfect base for a lot of wonderful excursions, and a great place to try cuisines from around the world.
Must Do: The gorgeous Tad Ngeuang Waterfall is an absolute must do in Pakse.
Known for: Being the ‘Mouth of the River’, which is the literal translation of ‘Pakse’. It’s where the infamous Mekong River and the Se Don River meet, providing one of the most beautiful river views you’ll ever see. Take advantage of the many bars and restaurants along the river to sit and admire the soothing flowing water and the fantastic Japanese Bridge.
TOP THINGS TO SEE AND DO IN PAKSE
Wat Phou Temple
Also known as Wat Phu or Vat Phou, it is temple situated at the bottom of Mount Phu Kao. This unique UNESCO World Heritage Site is not your typical gold ridden, beautifully polished temple. It’s wonderful just strolling amongst the sandstone ruins, but even better climbing up to take in the stunning views from above. A sprinkle of the holy mountain water will have you feeling like a new person after you visit. Entrance to Wat Phou is included with a Stray Travel Pass.
Tad Ngeuang Waterfall
The Tad Ngeuang Waterfall is an absolute must do in Pakse. A little outside of the city, this waterfall is without a doubt worth the commute. The trek to the bottom (and of course back up again) is not too difficult and it is worth exploring in all of its glory. You can get in for a swim, sit underneath the falls or admire it from the sidelines. Entrance to Tad Ngeuang Waterfall is included with a Stray Travel Pass.
Now this is one of the classically beautiful, gold ridden temples you most often see in photos. This stunning Buddhist monk school may be your best bet to take a quiet look at an early morning monk alms giving ceremony without worrying about crowds.
The Night Market
Most tourist hot spots in Laos have brilliant, beautifully lit, and interestingly stocked night markets. Pakse’s night market is no different. Taste traditional Lao dishes for astonishingly cheap prices and have some fun bartering with the locals for souvenirs you may not need, but just can’t resist.
Champasak Provincial Museum
Paske’s local museum holds the unique history of Champasak through extensive documents and artefacts related to the province. From ethnic clothing, pottery, and musical instruments, to scripts, jewellery, and even a water jar from the 11th century, there is extensive history to be learned there.
Excursions to the coffee farms in the highlands of the lush Bolaven Plateau can have you exploring these beautiful plantations and learning from the locals in the villages how coffee is produced, all the way from the cherry to your mug. A trip to the Bolaven Plateau is included with a Stray Travel Pass.
Tree Top Explorer Adventure
Trek through the jungle, tree house accommodation, wildlife spotting, thundering waterfalls, and a zip-line system that will have you flying through the tree-tops. 'Hop off' here to experience this adventure.
Champasak Palace Hotel
One icon you won’t miss in town is the wedding cake like Champasak Palace Hotel, built in 1968 by the last prince of Champasak (Chao Boun Oum na Champasak). He was also prime minister of the Kingdom of Laos from 1960 to 1962. The prince, a royalist and aligned with Thailand, fled to France in 1974 with the rise of the Pathet Lao.
Included in Your Stray Pass: Bolaven Plateau, Tad Ngeuang Waterfall entrance fee, Wat Phou UNESCO temple entrance fee.
EATING AND DRINKING
In addition to the delicious offerings at the night market, the wide array of Western and local restaurants will have you wondering where to start. If you fancy a bit of home comfort, or simply crave something other than the local cuisines, there are great pizza places and one or two fabulous Indian restaurants. This chilled city houses a number of coffee shops where you can get ‘proper’ coffee like you’re used to (you know, the ones with the fancy names!).
Not exactly known for its party lifestyle, there are still a few cheeky bars with good cocktail happy hours, and of course, very cheap Beer Lao. Hotels along the Mekong River are a little more expensive but come with the great river views.