Pakse (Pakxe) is a city in the Champasak province of 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 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.
Bangkok Airways offer direct flights from Bangkok, Thailand.
Tuk-Tuks and Motos will carry you to the town for US$1-3.
There is a regualar 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.
Pakse has two bus stations. One serves traffic to the north and one to the south. The first is located a couple of kilometers north of the city centre. The latter is located 8 kilometers to south (4000 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 (March 2008) 150.000 /170.000 Kip depending on whether you buy the ticket in the bus station or at tour agencies.
"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.
"Direct" buses are operated to Phnom Penh (12-14 hours, 27 $, change vehicles at the border at Dom Kralor, where Cambodian visa-on-arrival are issued). They are also more reliable than private minibuses (21$), drivers of which are known to simply abandon their passengers.
Actual single-bus cross-border services to/from Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia are scheduled to start any day now — perhaps 2010.
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.
There's not so much to do in Pakse but this is the base for travel to the Bolaven Plateau and Si Phan Don.
It's possible to organize a day-trip to Wat Phu 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 15-20 min 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 withdrawl with a 700,000 kip 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.
- There is a Morning Market that lasts most of the day. It can be found about 500m south of the town centre.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
- Sabaidy 2 Guesthouse, turn north off the main street at the crossing near the Green Discovery office, the place is very popular with backpackers. It's the only guesthouse in town with dorms (very basic). The shared showers have hot water. They also have basic rooms. 2$ (dorm) - 5$ (double room).
- Pakse Hotel  (near the Champasak shopping centre) offers a broad range of rooms.
- 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 @ 50,000Kip. Twin/Double with aircon, TV and fridge @ 80,000Kip.
- 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.
- Don't book a minibus service to Phnom Penh out of Pakse. We booked one from the 'Green Discovery' tour shop and were stranded in krattie a few hours later with no passage to Phnom penh until the next day. Book with a legitimate bus company if possible!!