Founded by the French in 1905 as an administrative outpost, Pakse sits a the confluence of the Mekong River and the SeDon ( Don River ) and is the capital of Champasak province. The town has grown quickly since the Lao –Japanese Bridge across the Mekong was opened in 2002, facilitating brisk trade with Thailand. Its position on the way to Si Phan Don in the far south, the Bolaven Plateau and remote provinces to the east, and Thailand to the west means anyone choosing to travel in the south will almost certainly spend time in Pakse.
The centre of Pakse retains the sort of Mekong river – town lethargy found in Savanakhet and Tha Khaek futher north. Fewer conolial – era buildings remain, though do look for the Franco – Chinese – style Chinese society building on Th 10 in the centre of town.
The vast Talat Dao Heung ( new market ) near the Lao – Japanese Bridge is one of the biggest in the country. Famous for its selection of fresh produce of coffee from the fertile Bolaven Plateau. Short day trips from the Pakse can made to Ban Saphai and Don Kho weaving centres 15 km north of town.
SIGHTS & ACTIVITIES
Champasak Historical Heritage
Admission US$ 0.50 – Open 8.30 – 11.30 am & 1.30 – 4 pm
Has a few artifacts and a lot of boring documents chronicling history of the province. Once you get past the Lao and communist hammer – and – sickle flags at the entrance you are in the best part of the museum – three very old Dong Son bronze drums and striking 7th –century sandstone lintels found at Uo Moung (Tomo Temple). The simple textile and jewellery collection from the Nyaheun, Suay, and Laven groups is also interesting for its large iron ankle bracelets and ivory ear plugs since these are rarely worn nowadays.
Also on the ground floor are musical instruments, stelae in the Tham script dating from the 15th to 18th centuries, a water jar from the 11th or 12th century, a small lingam ( Shiva phallus ), plus a model of Wat Phu Champasak.
One you head upstairs you’ll be beginning you last five minutes in the museum. Apart a small collection of Buddha images and forlorn – looking American weaponry. It’s all headshots of party members.
There are about 20 wats in the city, of which Wat Luang and Wat Tham Fai ( both founded in 1935 ) are the largest.
A monastic school at Wat Luang features ornate concrete pillars whimsy departs from canonical art without losing the traditional effect. Behind the sim is a monk’s school in an original wooden building. A thaat on the ground contains the ashes of Khamtay Loun Sasothit,a former prime minister in the Royal Lao Government.
Wat Tham Fai, near the Champasak Palace Hotel is undistinguished except for its spacious ground, making it a prime site for temple festival. It’s also known as Wat Pha Baht because there is a small Buddha footprint shrine. The stupas and Pepsi billboard near Rte 13 make good photos in the afternoon.
Massage and Sauna
The professional and popular massage and sauna Clinic Keo Ou Done (Traditional Medicine Hospice – Tel: 251895, 020-5431115 – Open: 4-9 pm Mon-Fri, 10 am – 9 pm Sat-Sun) has an air-con massage room and herbal sauna segregated by gender. A massage (highly recommended!), usually with medicated balms, costs US$ 2.50 per hour. Unlimited use of the herbal sauna costs US$ 0.80. To get there, take a jumbo east on Fte 13. About 100m before the Km 3 marker, turn right and follow the “Massage Sauna” signs another 800m.
Eating with the locals, especially at breakfast and lunch, is a fun experience. The restaurant under the Lan Kham hotel, just across Rte 13, the Mengky Noodle Shop are safe and popular places for noodle soup; Mengky is rightly famous for its duck breakfasts. Even better is the Local restaurants on Th 46, each one serving something slightly difference, just wander along and take your pick. The restaurant are open all day.
Lao, Thai & Vietnamese
Add: Th4 – Tel: 213245
Meals US$ 1- 2.50 – breakfast, lunch & dinner.
On the corner opposite the Pakse Hotel, Xuan Mai serves top-notch foe (US$ 0.80; the chicken foe is best), khao pun (white flour noodles sweet-spicy sauce), fruit shakes garlic bread. Open until midnight, it’s the best place for a late feed.
Meals US$ 1.50- 4 – breakfast, lunch & dinner
Serves decent European food good Vietnamese dishes, though not on the English menu so you will need to ask by name. It also has good ice cream and packed – with – process- meat western breakfasts ( US$ 2 )
Tel: 020-513 0513
Meals US$ 1.5 – 4.5 – breakfast, lunch & dinner.
In a French- era building, atmospheric Champady serves Thai cuisine and coffee in an street side location.
Khem Khong Restaurant
Meals US$ 2 – 5 – breakfast, lunch and dinner.
On the Mekong just south of town, this is one of several floating restaurants and has a well-earned reputation for excellent for excellent seafood. It’s best in a group so you can share several dishes, especially grilled fish.
Western & Indian
Tel: 030-534 5895
Meal US$ 1- 1.5 – breakfast, lunch & dinner.
Delta serves a vast array or food, the best being the Italian and Thai dishes. The vegetarian lasagna and pizza are particularly recommended but not the gnocchi.
Van Pisa Restaurant
Tel: 212 982
Pizzas US$ 3.5 – breakfast, lunch, dinner .
An Italian-run Italian restaurant where the pizzas are quite good and pastas are as tasty as the ingredients allow. They also serve delicious shakes and ice cream.
DRINKING AND ENTERTAINMENT
Sinouk Coffee Shop
Add: corner Th 9 & Th 11 – Tel: 212552
Coffee US$ 0.6 , Open: 7 am- 8 pm
In the renovated French shop house this café is best known for its (from US$ 2 for 250 gr ). They also sell Beerlao and have a small menu of western dishes.
The Champasak Place Hotel
Add: Opposite the Sinouk Coffee Shop
should have its top floor bar restaurant open by the time you arrive and it should be the classiest drinking spot in town. The roof top bar at the Pakse hotel is also good for a sunset Beerlao or two
For some Lao style partying , check out Lotty (Add: Th 11 – Open: 6 – 11 pm), the current favourite night club among young Lao looking to drink and dance; downstairs is where the action is.
Tags: Pakse, Pakse travel guide