Also known as 4,000 islands, is less than 3 hours away. Relax here for a few days by the Mekong River.
a village with waterfalls and trekking opportunities.
Pakse is on the banks of the Mekong River and is the main town of Southern Laos and capital of Chanmpasak province.
- Tourist information, Tel 212021, Mon to Fri 8am to noon, 1.30 to 4pm, on the Xe Don River near the Laos Airlines Office, with English speaking staff. The tourist information can organize trekking to the Xe Pian and Phou Xieng Thong nature reserves and overnight stays with natives at Don Kho and Don Daeng.
- The Um Muang ruins are located 44 km south of Pakse. The most interesting approach is to travel to Ban Nakham Noi by boat and hike in half an hour to the ruins. Two Khmer sanctuaries and several sandstone nagas and lingas have been built approximately at the same time as Wat Phu. The minor site is covered with moss and not as impressive as Wat Phu. The site has not been cleared of the encroaching jungle.
- Ban Phapho is situated 27 km east of Route 13 on the road to Attapeu. Here young elephants are trained for hauling hardwood and rice. There are up to 90 elephants in the elephants' school.
- Wat Phu is located 43 km south of Pakse. It is reached via the village of Champasak, What Phu is an outpost of the Khmer empire, but not as impressive as Angkor Wat in Cambodia. It makes for a great hour-long boat trip on the Mekong and a 1-hour hike on the mountain to the top of the sanctuary, Allow a full day for this excursion including a minimum stay of three hours at Wat Phu.
- Don Kho is an island in the Mekong River. Don Kho and the village of Ban XA Phai (15 Km north of Pakse) are centers of silk weaving. There are no cars on Don Kho. Most people on Don Kho offer 'homestay' accommodation with a family (30.000 Kip per person, dinner Kip 20.000, 2011). Some women offer silk weaving courses (Kip 50.000 per day) This is a good opportunity to see everyday life in rural Laos. Sawngthaews to Ban Xa Phai depart from the Dao Heuang Market (Morning Market) at Pakse (45 min, Kip 8.000, tuk-tuks or saam-laaw cost Kip 60.000. The boat from Ban Xa Phai to Don Kho costs Kip 20.000 per person and a boat tour around the island costs KIp 70.000 (2011).
- Phou Xieng Thong NPA is located 50 km from Pakse upstream on the Mekong. On the Thai side of the Mekong is the Phae Teaem National Park. Usually 2- or 3-day-trekking tour to Phou Xieng Thong NPA ar offered, with a boat trip on the Mekong, an overnight homestay and a hiking tour to Phou Khong (Khong Mountain). For practical reasons, it is recommended to book this tour at the Tourist Information in Pakse.
- Bolaven Plateau - rent a motorbike. Talk to Sabaidy 2 Hotel for information on a 2-3 day loop and other destinations.
- Vientiane - among other options, an overnight bus is available (2 people to a bed; snack, blanket and pillow included). Possible to book this at Sabaidy 2 Hotel.
- Cambodia - Travel onward to Cambodia from Pakse with visa-on-arrival facilities in place at the southern border with onward travel to Strung Treng, Kratie, Phnom Penh, and even Siem Reap. Check transport providers carefully as some travellers have been reported being left at one destination, when they were booked for another.
A single bus journey on VIP coach from Pakse to Phnom Penh costs 210,000 kip, and takes 13 hours including one hour at border. One company is Sengchaluean bus company, and includes tuk-tuk pick up from hotel via Lao Adventure Travel. DIY is not wise, as the bus station is more than 5 km to the east, a 20,000 kip tuk-tuk plus the fare quoted by the booth attendant at USD27. There is only one departure time, 08:00, although shown on the ticket as 07:30.
The border procedure is: 20 minutes from the last stop to the border, a man will appear together with other foreign passengers. Holding a stack of passports collected from the foreigners, he will walk the aisle, announcing that the border is near and those who have no visa should make ready their USD30. He distributes the Cambodian entry card and instructs everybody to complete it. Those who already have a visa should make ready their USD6 (the price of the departure stamp on the Laotian side, the entry stamp on the Cambodian side plus the Cambodian immigration card to be filled up included in the passport). This expediter instructs everybody to stay in place in their seats unless they want to unwind and stretch. As soon as he collects everything and the bus stops, he will disappear. After 40 minutes, he will return and hands out the stamped passports, with the visa sticker for those who have none, and the immigration card stamped and stapled.
At the next highway junction on the Cambodian side, the expediter will jump off, his mission accomplished.
It would be wise to leave the processing to the expediter, it's worry free, it's hassle free. Not to condone the corruption that may be involved, but because of the ocean of language barrier that keeps the tourist from being well informed and taking decisions correctly, just better leave it to these runners, unless one has the luxury of time.
Warning: For those proceeding to Cambodia by bus and making a pit stop at Pakse, dazed and just rudely awaken from sleep, do not ever be convinced to buy VIP bus tickets right away upon setting foot at the bus station. Drivers will talk you into buying them at USD75, a blunder that would have covered the cost of air ticket from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. If you have the stamina to walk with your luggage for about 500 m north where agencies line the main street, you can buy a ticket or better still, flag down a tuk-tuk to the bus station where the Cambodia-bound buses depart.
Alternatively, if you have a spare day, stay for the night (for 100,000 kip) and leave early next morning. Laos Adventure Travel at Rd 12, off the main street a few blocks east of the bridge, (Bhan Lak Muang), is reported to be a little cheaper than other agents.
Direct buses leave for Hue and Danang in Vietnam daily at around 07:30 from the Southern bus station. Bring your own food and water. The cost is 160,000 Kip to Hue and 180,000 to Danang.