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Pakse Travel Guide: Top 7 Things to Do

Pakse or Pakxe is the capital of Champasak Province in southern Laos, which shares borders with Thailand to the west and Cambodia to the south.

It is one of the lesser-known destinations in Southeast Asia, but its leisurely atmosphere attracts many senior travelers. If you are looking to relax and unwind before ending your Laotian vacation, then head to Pakse.

Here are some interesting facts on Pakse and travel tips, as well as a rundown of the top 7 things to do in Pakse. Read on to see what you can expect in this riverside city.

Quick Facts

  • The term "pak" means an estuary, and "se or xe" stands for the Se Don River (or Xe Don), which flows from the north to the southwest of the city.
  • It is one of the largest and most populous cities in Laos.
  • Pakse is located close to Laos's borders with Thailand and Cambodia. Therefore, many travelers keep Pakse as the last destination in Laos before they head to other Southeast Asian countries.

Best Time to Visit Pakse

The best time to visit Pakse is from October to February when the weather is cooler. During this period, you can avoid the hottest and wettest months and enjoy a comfortable journey. This is also the peak season. Although Pakse is not a popular tourist destination, the city offers some limited accommodation. Do book your hotel in advance.

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How to Get to Pakse

From Vientiane

There are four daily flights from Vientiane to the Pakse International Airport (PKZ). The journey takes about 1½ hours and is the fastest and most comfortable way to reach Pakse. Alternatively, you can go by road on a shuttle bus. Most hotels in Vientiane provide ticketing services. You can book your bus tickets through the hotel and take a tuk-tuk to the bus station. It takes around 11 hours by road, and so might not be the preferred mode of travel for everyone.

International Flights to Pakse

Pakse International Airport has flights to and from the following Southeast Asian destinations:

  • Bangkok, Thailand
  • Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
  • Da Nang, Vietnam
  • Siem Reap, Cambodia

Top Things to Do in Pakse

Pakse does not have many tourist spots and attractions. The best way to explore the city is by indulging in its laidback pace or by making it a home base to visit nearby destinations, such as the Bolaven Plateau and the Four Thousand Islands.

Here are the top things to do in and around Pakse.

1. Learn About the Local History and Culture at the Champasak Historical Heritage Museum

Although the museum building is quite small, only two-stories tall, its exhibits provide a quick understanding of the local history and culture.

The pictures and objects showcase the history of Laos and the Laotian Civil War in the 1960s. Some exhibits display interesting objects from the Laotian people's daily life, such as farm implements, handicrafts, and banknotes from different eras.

All information and descriptions are provided in English.

2. Visit Buddhist Temples

No matter which city you visit in Laos, you will find several great Buddhism temples, and Pakse is no exception. Pakse has over 20 temples, and the most famous ones are:

  • Wat Luang: It is one of the largest Buddhist temples in Pakse. It has a monastic school in the premises. The pillars and walls of Wat Luang are decorated with exquisite carvings and murals.
  • Wat Tham Fai: Many festivals and celebrations are conducted in the temple grounds. The temple hall enshrines a huge Buddha footprint.

3. Eat Noodles with the Locals

Eating noodles with the locals could be an interesting experience. In the restaurant, you will see the creativity of the chefs when preparing a bowl of noodles.

If you want to eat something flavorful, then order a bowl of thick noodles in a rich soup with minced meat and topped with fried garlic. For something milder, have a bowl of thin noodles in a clear soup with fresh vegetables and topped with herbs. Have this meal preferably for breakfast or luncht because devout Buddhists usually skip dinner.

4. Get the Laos Massage

The Laos massage is known for its intensity and the special essential oil used in the massage. You will find a few massage shops in Pakse's town center. Dok Champa Massage is famous in Pakse for the clean and quiet environment and great service. Alternatively, you can ask your hotel for recommendations or use maps to find one.

5. Buy Coffee Beans at the Morning Market

French colonists brought the first coffee plants to Laos in the 1900s. They sowed the first few coffee plants in the Bolaven Plateau, which is 20 km east of Pakse. Today, the coffee beans from the Bolaven Plateau, are considered a specialty by coffee lovers.

Head to Talat Dao Heung, Pakse's morning market, to purchase authentic Bolaven coffee beans and powder. Besides coffee, you can buy tea leaves and wooden handicrafts.

6. Explore the Bolaven Plateau

The Bolaven Plateau is not just a hub for coffee plantations, but it is also a charming and less-crowded destination, ideal for one- or two-day trips. You can easily rent a scooter from Pakse and ride to the Bolaven Plateau.

You will see a string of lush coffee plantations along your way. Visit one of the plantations and taste the local coffee. Some plantations also provide homestay accommodation.

Other attractions in the region are some enchanting waterfalls and charming villages. If you have only a day to spare, then you can drive to Ta Lo Waterfall. You will find some villages with coffee plantations and weaving workshops along your way.

7. Traverse the Four Thousand Islands in a Canoe

Si Phan Don, which means "Four Thousand Islands",  is about 2 hours' drive south of Pakse. Located on Mekong River and near the border of Laos and Cambodia,  Si Phan Don is made up of several, large and small, charming islands that feature peculiar and beautiful landscapes.

Enjoy a joyful ride through the islands on a canoe and through narrow riverways. Check out the tropical plants and marine life. If you are lucky, you might spot the rare Irrawaddy river dolphins.

You can also stay at one of the large islands, such as Don Khong Island, which has guesthouses, restaurants, and cafés.

If you have more time, visit Khon Phapheng Falls, one of the largest waterfalls in Southeast Asia.

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