Pakse (Pakxe) is a city in the Champasak province of Southern Laos. It's one of the biggest towns in Laos and a major transportation hub for southern Laos. If you plan to go to the Bolaven Plateau, Wat Phou, or Si Phan Don you will probably have to spend some time here.
Pakse International Airport is some km north of town and offers scheduled flights to Vientiane and Siem Reap.
Tuk-Tuks and Motos will carry you to the town for US$1-3.
At April 2010, the airport is closed for construction works. If you want to fly from Vientiane or Luang Prabang to south you can go to Savannakhet. Don't know how long the works are, you have to check if the airport works or not.
Visa extensions are possible at the Police Station on Th. 10, just down the road from the Salachampa Hotel and Restaurant. The cost is US$2 per day plus a 5,000kip "form fee." The process is very easy; turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo; fill in a form and come back in the afternoon for your extension.
There is a regular slow-boat service to Si Phan Don. Departure is around 8AM but check the day before. The boat landing is near the mouth of the Xe Don river.
Dec 2011: The service is no longer existant, but you can ask for a private boat, which is of course very expensive on your own (we asked Green Dicovery, the offer was about 250 Bucks). But you could bring 10 more travellers with you and share the cost if you like.
Pakse has two bus stations that mainly serve the locals. One serves traffic to the north and one to the south. (This information needs to be verified as these locations can't be spotted on the map. It may mean wrong orientation.) The first is located about ten kilometers north of the city centre (15.1700 105.7600). The latter is located 8 kilometers to the south (40000 kip by moto from the centre). Getting to right station with tuktuk is easy if you just tell the driver which place you are heading.
"VIP" buses from/to Vientiane operate from near the Champasak shopping centre in the town centre. The journey takes about 10 hours and should cost around (April 2011) 170.000 /190.000 Kip depending on whether you buy the ticket in the bus station or at tour agencies.
There are a couple of "VIP" bus companies, two of the popular ones are Chitprasom and Kriang Kai. Chitprasom (all sleeper buses) buses operate out of a station close to the shopping center near the town center. Kriang Kai (all sleeper buses)operate out of a private bus station 2 kilometers from the town center near an afternoon food market. As of April 2011, a ticket to and from Vientiane will cost 210K Kip per person when a one seater bus is available, 170K Kip to share a double with another stranger, or 250K Kip for double to be ridden alone if a one seater/sleeper is not available. If a single seater (210K Kip) is available, 340K Kip for a double seater/sleeper for either one or two person occupancy. Chitprasom buses tend to be newer as KK has been around longer and have not updated their buses. When traveling from Pakse to Vientiane, take the KK buses as they will drop you off in the Vientiane town center where their corporate office is, 2 min walk from the Cultural Hall, free of charge and save the 10K Kip tuk tuk ride into town. All northbound buses however do stop at the Vientiane bus station, which is 9 kilometers from the town center. If you are coming from Don Det and have not bought a through ticket, you can either get off at the KK terminal and buy ticket there with KK, or wait and get dropped in town, and buy your ticket for Chitprasom.
WARNING TO FEMALE TRAVELLERS
I travelled on an overnight “sleeping” bus from Pakse to Vientiane through the King Kham Transportation Co in Nov 2011. I bought my ticket from a hotel on the main road of Pakse. The ticket inspector got into my bunk several times during my trip and tried to touch me up, and did the same to other girls travelling by themselves. I have complained to my embassy but if this happens to you, do something on the spot! Jump up and yell, tell everyone on the bus what happened, take his photo and tell him you will be informing the authorities. I wish I had but at the time I thought I was over reacting. It might seem like an innocent sleepy hand for the first two seconds but it absolutely is NOT.
I encourage you to contact your embassy if this has happened to you. If travelling alone please be aware of your own safety and don't take sleeping pills to help you sleep through the journey. Stay safe!
"VIP" buses from/to Thailand via the Chong Mek border crossing take about 2 hours and charge US$5 (200 baht) to Ubon. There are also minibuses to the border only.
Minibuses head to/from Si Phan Don for 55k - 60k. Shop around. For Si Phan Don it's also possible to go to the main bus terminal outside of town and take a songtheaw for 40,000kip per person. Expect chickens and fish as your companions!
This is a small town so walk around. Otherwise there are enough tuk tuks around. A trip to the market will cost around 5000 kip and US$1 to the bus station.
Wat Luang, the biggest and most beautiful temple of Pakxe, and home of Buddhist Monk School. This is also the best place to see the monk alm giving rituals often seen in Luang Prabang. If you miss that one, this is one up close and personal opportunity. You might just be one of a handful of tourists there to behold the sight without feeling guilty as Luang Prabang is now in the spotlight.
Wat Phabad, the oldest and largest temple of Pakxe, and believed to have Buddha Footprint, which its name derived from.
Ban Keosamphanh has the most beautiful green rice field of Pakxe, former French Army Camp, and homed to the oldest market of Pakse.
Mekong Bank the most popular place and night centre point of Pakxe.
Big Buddha. In Aug 2011 a 'Big Buddha' temple complex was built across the river, adjacent to the Japanese bridge. More than a few steps to the top, a great view of the river and city.
Forget about the PBS Gourmet.com endorsement of street food market in Luang Prabang. It pales in comparison. This is it, Pakse, a small town with disproportionate separate olympic-size wet, dry, food markets formed in one complex called Dao Heuang Market at No.38 Rd.. Acres and acres of food stalls are laid-out before your eyes, a feast to the eyes and nose as well, democracy and freedom at its finest in this communist country where the small time entrepreneur lord it over the big box supermarket capitalist store chains. The selection of food seemed endless, a delightful eye candy for street food aficionados, unspoiled by tourists except for a handful at a time. One day is not enough to comprehend this mind-boggling window shopping experience. This is probably the best in Laos, if not in Southeast Asia.
But Pakse should be considered a staging point for archeological tourists in this part of Laos for two reasons: 1) it is where the Champasak Provincial Museum is located as an introductory to local archeology, and 2). it is an alternative to Champasak city as a staging point for those wanting to see Wat Phou. Wat Phou is a designated UNESCO site and boasts of as Laos' counterpart to Angkor Wat/Angkor Thom. It's got the finest of its genre outside Cambodia.
The museum is located close to the new market 500 meters north of the banks of the Mekong.
It's possible to organize a day-trip to Wat Phou near Champasak, where you can also stay easily.
Rent a motorbike and head east towards Pak Song (Paxxong). The ride is pretty, and there are heaps of waterfalls to stop by near Pak Song. The Champasak Provincial Tourism Department puts out a nice few nice brochures including one on the Bolaven Plateau that details these including Tad Fane, Tad Champee, Tad Ueang, and Tad Pha Suam. Admission tends to be the same at every place, 5000 K per person, 3000 for the bike.
One waterfall not mentioned is Tad Sae, which is located off of Route 13 at a fairly large t-junction with a bunch of fruit sellers lining the road. Not as large as some of the others it nonetheless offers a beautiful place to stop and eat or hang out for a while. (Note that if you search for Tad Sae on the Internet you will be directed to the one near Luang Prabang which is *not* the same one here.)
These are several internet cafes on the corner near Nazim's Indian restaurant that charge around 6000k/h. The smart new 'Tour Lao' Cafe on the southern end of the market plaza has WiFi too.
As in Vientiane there is also a proper bowling alley located in town. About a 15-20 minute walk away from the center or a short tuk-tuk ride away head down the main road and turn right towards the big white building in the distance. It is not far away from the river so if you are over there already you can walk along there to find it. Be warned though that if you want a ride home you should negotiate a tuk-tuk to stay since you won't find many patrolling there especially later in the evening.
BCEL Bank (on Th 11, just next to Wat Luang in the town centre) changes money, cashs traveller cheques and does cash advance on credit cards. There is also an ATM in front of the building that now accepts most foreign cards as of December 2008. There are a lot more ATMs in Southern Laos these days. When heading south this is the last ATM until Kompong Cham in Cambodia. However, there is now an ATM in Attapeu, though be warned they all charge a criminal 20,000 kip per withdraw ($2) with a 700,000 kip ($75) per transaction maximum.
The Lao Development Bank to the North of the city can exchange Kip to US$, vital if travelling onwards overland to Vietnam. Across the road, directly opposite the bank is an ATM which accepts international cards such as Cirrus. There is a limit of 700,000 Kip per transaction although you can withdraw numerous times. Those who are heading to Cambodia, gather a few riels to tide you over for your first few hours in Cambodia from the Lao Development Bank at No.13 Rd. They close at 3:30 pm.
There is a Morning Market that lasts most of the day. It can be found about 500m south of the town centre near the Sedone River.
The huge Talat Dao Heuang (New Market) is about 2 km south-east out of town on Road 13 near the Japanese bridge over the Mekong.
The restaurants are concentrated on the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge. The variety is quite diverse for the size of the town. For a more genuine Lao eating experience have a look in the streets south of the main one.
Jaidee Bar and Restaurant, Road no. 11 (in front of the Sleeping Bus Station for the bus to Vientiane). They serve dinner, sandwiches and fruitshakes. An Italian and a laotian chef prepare the dishes. Free Wi-Fi.
Delta Coffee is on the main road No. 13 across the street from the Champasak Palace Hotel, and is one of the best western food options in town, although they also have good Lao food, with a full range of pastas (20,000-30,000 kip), pizzas (35,000-50,000 kip), sandwiches, hamburgers (15,000-20,000 kip), and desserts baked on site in addition the their fine coffee; prices are quite reasonable and the staff friendly.
Dornsokdee Restaurant, on the main road No. 13 South opposite to the museum and in between IndoChina Bank and ANZ Bank. This restaurant is the top no.1 in the local which serves varieties of food, Thai Foods, Vietnamese Foods, International Foods, and Local Foods. However, the menu that makes this restaurant popular is Korean BBQ and Sukiyaki which is 'cook it yourself' style that can make you enjoy travel time together with your friends or partner. The price of food is reasonable compares to the value of food, however, fried rice starts only 10,000 kip (US $1.30). This is the must visit restaurant that is recommended when you visit Pakse.
Nazim Restaurant, on the main street next to the Phonsavan hotel, serves Indian dishes at about 10000-20000 Kip. Portions are small, food is OK. Plenty of vegetarian options.
Jasmin Restaurant is next door to Nazim and serves exactly the same dishes at the same price.
Baguette stalls can be found along the main street between the roundabout and the French bridge. A delicious small pate baguette generally runs to 5,000-6,000kip.
Lan Kham Noodle House, directly below Lan Kham hotel serves enormous bowls of noodle soup with fresh herbs and salad. Price from 15,000 - 17,000 Kip. Open from approx 10AM, closes early. Used to be very popular with the locals, especially the government workers. Now, not so much Current clients are mostly the foreign backpackers and the Asian travelers who stayed in nearby accomodations.
Royal Pakse Hotel Across the street and opposite corner from Nazim has a fairly extensive Lao/Thai and Indian menu also featuring Thai style sukiyaki with an a la carte selection of options to choose from.
Korean BBQ(not real name) Walking down the main street past the BCEL ATM and turn right, walk down one block and turn left and you will find another 'cook it yourself' Korean BBQ style place on the corner. Featuring a more economical option than the hot pot above though the atmosphere inside can be overpoweringly smokey when busy, try to grab one of the few outside tables or come early/late.
Cafe Sinouk (Cafe Sinouk), No 11 Rd (Very close to the Champasak Shopping Center). Cafe has free wifi for patrons and fancy frappe drinks, cakes, and basic restaurant menu.
Bolaven Cafe, South Rd 13 (opp. Sang Aroun Hotel), ☎ 020 9787 4632, . 08.00-20.30. Classy, with a blue theme. Western menu, many locals come in for a cappuccino. Free wifi. In cap strip.not cheap. (15.1219,105.8)
Pizza Boy, Th. 13 (Next to the Lan Kham Noodle House). Italian restaurant with decent pasta from 30,000kip, excellent espresso coffee at 7,000kip and tasty ice cream at a very reasonable 5,000kip for a (large) scoop. Pizzas were quite expensive at 45,000 for a Margherita or 60,000 if you wanted anything on it; I didn't partake but they looked more like a French style of pizza than Italian.30,000-60,000.
Enjoy the sunset with a beer lao at the Mekong River. Go to the French bridge and then head south along the Mekong. After having passed the Wat you come across countless places to have a drink.
Lotty is a nightclub
Katuad cafe, NE corner of Rt13 and 24th street. 7AM-9PM. Good cafe in the center of town. One of the only places in town with free wifi. Coffee is local and good. They have no qualms about staying for a few hours and actually will give you free tea after a while.8-12000 kip.
Le Panorama (Pakse Hotel), Bane Watlouang, Street N°4, ☎ +856 31 21 21 31, . 16.30h - 23.30h. The only rooftop restaurant in Pakse! On the 7th floor of Pakse Hotel, with a beautiful view over the town and the Mekong. Western, Asian und Fusion Dishes, especially created for the restaurant by the new french chef. Not cheap, but the view makes up for it, and you'll find probably the best pizza and western dishes in town!40.000 - 85.000 Kip.
Victory Hi Tech. Loud and dark local night clubs a couple of kilometres out of town down route 13. Packed with locals most nights and is about the only place in town you can kick on at until midnight. Beer Lao is 15,000K
Jaidee Bar and Reastaurant, Street 11 (Front of VIP sleeping Bus Station). Italian and Laotian dishes, fresh italian sandwich, fruitshakes, cocktail, and good info. FREE WIFI
Jaidee Bar and Restaurant, Street 11 ((Front of VIP sleeping Bus Station)), . An Italian and A laotian chef for the best of both cooking. Real Italian taste We are in front of the Sleeping Bus Station inside the city to go Vientiane; a dinner, a sandwich, a fruitshake or just only for the FREE WIFI!!!
Most hotels and guesthouses in Pakse can be found along the main street between the French bridge and the roundabout or a short way into its sidestreets. Prices in Pakse are very high compared to the rest of the country; even higher than Vientiane. It is also, quite inexplicably as there is absolutely nothing to do here, full of Western tourists and many of the guesthouses fill up quite early in the day. Expect to pay around double what you pay elsewhere in Laos and consider booking ahead.
Arawan Hotel, Salakiew St (turn right at the Mekong Bridge, 500m down the road next to Secondary School), ☎ (856)3126034550 (firstname.lastname@example.org), . Good location, right on the banks of the Mekong River. Stunning views from the outdoor pool. Great if you feel like a bit of a splurge. They also offer cheaper rooms for US$35, but the deluxe rooms are well worth the money.
Daovieng hotel 2, 13 & 35 Road phonesay village, ☎ (031)214331, . Good clean, smallish rooms with air-con and cable tv. wifi is available in the lobby.$10.
Champasak Palace hotel, the former royal palace on road 13 is probably the most upmarket option in town.
Lan Kham Hotel, on road 13 opposite the Lao Development Bank is clean and surprisingly has an OK lounge downstairs with large stacks of "TIME" and "Newsweek" to help ease the boredom in Pakse. Twin room with fan, toilet & shower for 90,000 Kip. Twin/Double with aircon, TV and fridge for 100,000 Kip, Free wifi but only at reception.
Lao Chaleun Hotel, Th 10, ☎ 251333. Staff are accomodating and my single room although tiny was immaculately clean. February 2012.from 80,000kip for a single with cold water attached bathroom.
Noknoi Guest House, (On road 13 just one block after katuad cafe on the corner opposite a little supermarket), ☎ 031 251 100. Solid guest house. Clean standard rooms, complementary water and coffee. Some room for improvement but no deal breakers: woodwork is a bit rough, owners don´t really speak english. Free Wifi. Cable TV is there but the signal is very noisy. Dorm 30,000 kip. Rooms from 50,000 kip. Air-con room with hot shower for 70,000 in January 2011.
Pakse Hotel (near the Champasak shopping centre) offers a broad range of rooms. A great hotel with nice rooms, good service, helpful staff and a lovely roof-top restaurant. Room comes with good buffet breakfast. An economy room for one person (with ensuite) was $US20 in January 2010. In Aug 2011 $25 (200,000 kip). Can arrange tours to nearby sights.
Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse, turn north off the main street at the crossing near the Green Discovery office. It's the only guesthouse in town with dorms (very basic). The shared showers have hot water. They also have basic rooms. 30k kip (4$) for the dorm - 45k kip / 60k kip for single or double rooms. Apparently being mentioned in the lonely planet completely got to these guys heads, as the rooms are overpriced, and they charge for everything extra, like keeping your bags while you check out the Bolevan plateau. They even charge extra for the WiFi (10,000 Kip/day). Laundry 15,0000 kip/kg. If you want you can rent a motorbike from here, among several other businesses around town. Have a day tour to boloven at 180-250,000 kip depending on the number of persons.
Sedone River Guest House, Th. 11 (left immediately after the bridge, first street betweeen Th.13 and Th.21, right on the Se Don), ☎ 212158. This guesthouse has friendly staff and a very pleasant garden overlooking the Se Don. 50,000kip for a fan room or 70,000kip for an AC room with hot water. These prices cover up to two people; you can pay 15,000 extra for a third. The AC rooms are enormous if a bit shabby. Cleanliness is middling; this isn't a spic and span modern guesthouse but has a bit of shabby character. Unfortunately due to the location by the river there are a LOT of mosquitos. February 2012.50-70,000kip.
Thaluang Hotel, Street 21, Bane Thaluang (Near intersection of Street 24), ☎ (856-31) 251399. checkout: 12pm. good location, helpful and knowledgeable staff, rooms are fairly old and could use some renovating (July 2011), air-con and hot water available, the most expensive room has four beds60-150,000 kip.
Vilaysing guest house, 242 Ban Lakmuang, Road 13, Pakse District, Champasak Province, Lao PDR (just near Lankham hotel on main street), ☎ 031-254168. laundry 10,000 kip/kg, Free wifi in rooms. DO NOT GO THERE, THEY ARE DANGEROUS ! They have threatened to cut off our arm with a knife (chopping). They were crying. We have recieved some death threats. They were completely drunk. We had to leave the hotel without spending the night there even if the room was paid. All for a door handle removed by my 7 years old kid while he was trying to open it to enter into the room. DO NOT GO THERE ! We also had a terrible experience at this guesthouse in March 2012. We stayed in the family room just at the top of the stairs. Great, spacious room but with a lethal coffee table in the middle of the floor!!! The inch-thick glass top was not fixed to the base of the table in any way (and this a family room!!) and was two sizes too big for that particular base. When one of us placed a large bottle of water to the edge of the table, the table top flipped and crashed to the floor. Our friend received a long gash to the sole of his foot from flying glass and there were shards and powdered glass everywhere. This happened after midnight so we had to wake the guy sleeping downstairs and he gave us a brush and bucket and made us sweep the glass up!! No offer of another room or anything. Next day we were told very rudely by the vietnamese owner (they run another restaurant and guesthouse a few doors up on the same side of the street) that as it was our fault the glass came off the table, we had to pay 20,000kip to replace it. The lady was very rude and aggressive, never apologised for the injury caused to our friend's foot and claims that all her tables in both guesthouses are like this and we should have taken more care. DO NOT STAY THERE!starting at 60,000 kip, could have 50,000 Kip for room on 3F/roof or if you stay more than 1 night.
Bolaven Plateau - rent a motorbike. Talk to Sabaidy 2 Hotel for information on a 2-3 day loop and other destinations.
Tadlo - a village with waterfalls and trekking opportunities.
Si Phan Don - Also known as 4,000 islands, is less than 3 hours away. Relax here for a few days by the Mekong river.
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 is now possible (as of March 2011), with visa-on-arrival facilities now in place at the southern border with onwards 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.
Aug 2011, a single bus ride on VIP coach from Pakse to Phnom Penh, 13 hours, 170,000 kip, one hour at border, no problems. Sengchaluean bus company.
As of Feb 2012, the above holds true but some additional info.. The fare is now 210,000 (7,890 kips to $US1 @ $26.6 Sengchaleuan Bus) including tuktuk pick up from hotel via agent (Laos Adventure travel www.laoadventuretravel.com) by far the unbeatable cheapest. By DIY is not wise, the bus station is more than 5 km to the east at 20,000 kips tuk-tuk ride plus the fare quoted by the booth attendant at $US27 flat. There is only one departure time which is at 8:00 am (although stated in the ticket as 7:30 am). Previous pathetic and unfortunate incident reports of passengers having to change different modes and types of transport on this trip and being left out for DIY passport processing are now resolved and updated as follows:
20 minutes on the last stop to the border, a fairly neatly groomed man will appear together with other foreign passengers. Holding a stack of passports collected from the foreigners that he tags along as he gets in the bus, he walks the aisle, announces that the border is near and those who have no visa should ready their $US30, distributes the Cambodian entry card and instructs everybody to fill it up. Those who already have visa should still ready their $US6 (reasons unknown but it may be 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 them and the bus stops, off he disappears just the same way as he appeared. After 40 minutes, he comes up and returns the passports stamped, with the visa sticker for those who have none, and the immigration card stamped and stapled. One can actually do it by himself, however it is impossible to inquire about the wheeling and dealing going on due to communication problems, it is best to shut up. If by DIY, chances are they may do the run-around red tape, what is $6 loss to a spoiled vacation trip? Even this author who didn't need this expediter's help by applying a pre-arrival visa for $20 has to give in to the $6 demand money.
At the next highway junction on the Cambodian side, this expediter jumps off, his job 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 to be a reporter working for 20/20 stinging for scoops.
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. Guiltless tout/drivers will sales talk you to buy them at $US 75.0 - a blunder that should have covered the cost of air ticket from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. Or if you have the stamina to walk with your luggage for about 500 meters north where agencies line their "Main Street", you can proceed to buy the ticket or better still, directly flag a tuktuk to the bus station to where the Cambodia-bound buses depart, and eke out an additional 13 hours of cramp inducing trip.
Better still, if you have one day to kill, stay for the night (for 100,000 kips or $US12.50) and leave early morning. The best offer so far is by Laos Adventure Travel at Road 12, off their "Main Street" after a few blocks east of the bridge, (Bhan Lak Muang) for 210,000 kips or $US26.00 compared to the rest of agents starting at 230,000 kips and above.