Pakse, or Pakxe, is a city in Southern Laos. It’s the capital of the province Champasak and Laos’ second most populous city. Pakse is the perfect hub for your Southern Laos travels to places as the Bolaven Plateau and 4000 islands. But it’s way more than just a hub or gateway. It’s a charming and peaceful city surrounded by beautiful nature. Pakse means mouth of the river, and its located next to the Mekong and Sedone rivers. We recommend staying at least two days in Pakse, to enjoy everything it has to offer and to enjoy the laid-back Lao culture. Here are our top things to see and do in Pakse. And also our recommendations on where to eat and stay. We fell in love with this city, hopefully, you do the same!
Things to do and see in Pakse
Wat Phou Salao aka Golden Buddha
Rent a motorbike, bicycle or jump in a tuk-tuk and visit Wat Phou Salao. With it’s giant golden Buddha and stunning views over the city and Mekong river this temple is a must visit. The big Buddha might be the advertised highlight, we actually loved the many small Buddhas right next to it even more. On the way to Wat Phou Salao from Pakse city, you will cross the Lao-Japan friendship bridge and from there, you can spot the giant golden Buddha on top of the mountain. Sunset and sunrise are definitely the best moments to visit Wat Phou Salao for the best light.
Dao Heuang Market
The Dao Heuang Market, also known as the KM 2 Market, is the biggest market in Southern Laos and the place to be if you are looking for a typical Asian market experience. It’s a morning market with a huge variety of products, from clothes to household goods to jewellery to food. You will find many locals here.
Our favourite temple in town is Wat Luang. Wat Luang is the largest and oldest temple in Pakse. The temple has many beautiful paintings and something we’ve never seen before: the detailed tombstones. They are placed around the temple and the decorations of them are absolutely beautiful.
Champasak Provincial Historical Museum
Learn more about Champasak province in the Champasak Provincial Historical Museum. In the museum, you can find everything about the unique history of the province, historical photos, a collection of stone carvings and jewellery and clothing from ethnic minorities.
Sunset at Le Panorama Rooftop Restaurant
Drink cocktails or beer Lao with panoramic views of Pakse and surrounding nature, while the sun is setting and the sky turns all kinds of warm colours. How does that sound? Le Panorama restaurant is our favourite spot in town and the place to be for food and drinks. Between 5 & 6 pm there’s a happy hour, which makes the sunset even more wonderful. You can find Le Panorama on top of the Pakse Hotel and it’s the only rooftop restaurant in the city!
Wander Around Town
From 1893 to 1949, Laos was colonised by the French. While wandering around town you’ll notice the European styles of the buildings. Champasak Palace is a good example of a building with a French architectural style. Besides beautiful French style buildings, you can also find 18 beautiful temples in Pakse. Wat Luang, as mentioned before, is a must see and also Wat Phabat or one of the Chinese temples are worth a visit.
Drink a cup of Coffee
Before coming to Laos we didn’t know about this, but Laos is a huge coffee country. Coffee is one of Laos’ most exported products. Every year 20.000 tons of coffee is being produced in Laos. Robusta and Arabica are the two types of coffee beans you can find here. Definitely visit a coffee plantation while you’re travelling Southern Laos. In Pakse, you can find many coffee shops. Go to Vida Bakery Cafe, Cafe Sinouk Pakse or The Tea Room by Dao coffee for the best coffee in town. The Dao coffee company is one of the biggest in Southern Laos.
Wat Phou, or Wat Phu, is an ancient Khmer temple complex listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2001. The name means mountain temple. Its location is on a hillside which offers beautiful views over the surrounding area. Wat Phou is one the oldest archaeological sites in Laos. It was built in the late 10th century. Angkor Wat, on the other hand, was built in the first half of the 12th century, which makes Wat Phou older. Though, Angkor Wat is a lot bigger than Wat Phou. We expected Wat Phou to a bit bigger but it’s definitely worth a visit. Especially because of the beautiful scenery and peaceful mysterious vibes at the temple complex. From Pakse, it’s about an hour drive to Wat Phou. Wat Phou is perfect to combine with a visit to the quiet town Champasak.
Wat Chompet and Ban Saphai
If you have more time to spend in Pakse you can also visit Wat Chompet and Ban Saphai located in the North of Pakse. Wat Chompet is a temple with a 30-metre tall Buddha. Ban Saphai is a village known for their handicrafts. Here you can find (the production of) traditional Lao wearing.
Best Spots for Food and Drinks
- Daolin restaurant serves many different cuisines, Western and Asian, and is very affordable. Many backpackers go here.
- Phai Lorm for delicious local food for cheap prices, plus it has an AC (if you need to escape the hot temperatures)
- The menu of Hasan Indian offers a combination of Indian and Western food.
- Jasmine restaurant if you crave more Indian food.
- As mentioned before, definitely visit Le Panorama on top of Pakse Hotel for food and drinks with the best views in town. Prices are a bit more expensive but very worth it.
- Go to Dok Mai Lao Trattoria if you want Italian food. Plus they have a cute secret garden.
- La Terrasse has delicious wood fire pizza, plus French and Lao food.
- Great cafes in Pakse are Vida Bakery Cafe, Cafe Sinouk Pakse or The Tea Room by Dao coffee.
- Go to one of the floating restaurants for an exciting eating experience!
When to Visit Pakse, Laos
Travelling to Pakse and Southern Laos is possible throughout the entire year. June to October is the rainy season though, and some people consider it the reason not to go. But especially that season has many advantages: nature is greener, the waterfalls are more impressive and there are fewer tourists. March to May are the hottest and driest months of the year. During the months November to February, it’s mostly dry and the temperatures are cooler. Or well, we visited Pakse in December and it was still crazy hot (35 degrees Celsius).
Where to Stay
We highly recommend staying at the Pakse Hotel. That’s the place where you can drink and eat on their wonderful rooftop. The location of the Pakse Hotel is great and our stay was wonderful. If you are on a budget, check out Chato Hostel. Chato Hostel is located on the across the street from Pakse Hotel and has very good reviews.
How to get Around
Pakse has an international airport with international flights from and to Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap and Bangkok. Domestic flights are possible from and to Vientiane, Luang Prabang and Savannakhet. From Thailand, it’s also possible to go to Pakse overland. The Chong Mek-Vang Tao border crossing is about 45 minutes away from Pakse city. There are two bus stations in Pakse and tour agencies can organise bus trips to many places in Laos.
Unlike other South East Asian countries, there’s no Grab available in Laos. Though there’s an app called Loca, it’s an app with a ride-sharing concept. We have never used Loca so we can’t tell you anything about it. Maybe you can try it out and tell us more! In the city centre of Pakse, you can find many tuk-tuks or motorcycles with a sidecar. It’s also possible to rent a motorbike or bicycle to drive around yourself. There are many shops that rent motorbikes and some also rent bicycles in the city centre of Pakse. Note: they aren’t familiar with 24-hour rental. If you rent a motorbike for a day you have to return it at night.
Enjoy your trip to Southern Laos! If you have any questions let us know. Do you like this blog? Don’t forget to save and share it.
Do you want to learn about the safety for gay travellers in South East Asia? Make sure to check out this blogpost from The Globetrotter Guys!
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