Monday, 6th July 2015
What is there to do in and around Pakse?
The Laotian city of Pakse is often known as the gateway to southern Laos, but is not as firmly on the tourist trail as some of the country's other metropolises. For many people, this will be a bonus and its laidback atmosphere, as well as nearby attractions make it a great spot to add to any itinerary to South East Asia.
Confluence of two rivers
Pakse gets much of its charm from its location at the confluence of the Mekong and Don rivers, where it is particularly pleasant to sit and enjoy a Beerlao. The riverfront is pretty, especially as the sun sets and is a pleasing focal point for travellers.
Not many colonial-era edifices can be found in Pakse these days, but there are a few if you look hard enough. Among them is the Chinese Society Building, which was constructed in the Franco-Chinese style and is a stunning example of this grandiose form of architecture. It is located in the centre of town, making it convenient to inspect from the outside.
While in the area, also check out the former Palace of Prince Boun Oum Na Champasak, which has been converted into a hotel. It can be found at the bridge crossing the Don River on Route 13.
Champasak Historical Heritage Museum
The artefacts at this museum include three Dong Son bronze drums, which date back centuries; a Siam-style Buddha head from the 7thcentury, which is created from sandstone; and lintels from the 9th century ruined temple of Uo Moung. There are also examples of jewellery and textiles from the Nyaheun, Suay and Laven communities for visitors to look at.
Among the 20 or so temples in Pakse is Wat Luang, one of the biggest and constructed in 1935. The monastic school within its grounds is complete with highly decorated concrete pillars, wooden doors carved with intricate patterns and murals. Look out for the large golden Buddha and the ashes of a former prime minister of Laos.
Another temple worth visiting is Wat Pha Bat, which is located on the banks of the Don River, facing the Champasak Palace Hotel. Its name translates as Temple of the Buddha Footprint, which offers a highly evocative image of its founding.
Outside of the city, but within easy reach is the Bolaven Plateau, an elevated region within the Champasak province that is famed for its stunning scenery. Located here are a number of national parks, waterfalls, jungle and hill tribes. Its altitude means the Bolaven Plateau is cooler than other parts of Laos, making it pleasant for trekking. Good quality coffee is produced in the region and local markets are fascinating to see farmers and villagers bartering their wares.
The village of Tat Lo could hardly be more charming, surrounded as it is by waterfalls. The nearest of these is Tat Hang, which it is possible to swim to from the village. Tat Soung, complete with a 50-metre drop and stunning swimming hole is the type of place that visitors can end up spending half a day at simply relaxing and cooling off as required.
Related news stories:
Why has Laotian food not been widely exported to the rest of the world? (2nd April 2015)
Laos: All the essential information you need (23rd January 2015)
5 things you didn't know about Cambodia (12th July 2016)