Pakse

Pakse (ປາກເຊ) is a city in the Champasak province of Southern Laos. It's one of the biggest cities in Laos and a major transportation hub for southern Laos. If you plan to go to the Bolaven Plateau, Wat Phou, or Si Phan Don you will probably have to spend some time here.

View of Mekong River in Pakse

Understand

Pakse is on the banks of the Mekong River and is the main town of Southern Laos and capital of Chanmpasak province.

Tourist Office

Get in

By plane

Pakse International Airport (IATA: PKZ) is north of the city and offers scheduled flights to Vientiane and Siem Reap in Cambodia. Lao Airlines serves Bangkok, Da Nang, Ho Chi Minh City and Siem Reap from Pakse.

A tuk-tuk or moto into the city costs USD1-3.

Ubon Ratchathani (IATA: UBP) in Thailand. Pakse is far easier to reach from Ubon Ratchathani than from Vientiane. On condition that your visa are in order, you can enter or exit Pakse from Thailand via the Thai - Laos border crossing at Chong Mek. AirAsia offers flights from Bangkok (DMK) to Ubon Ratchathani (departure Bangkok 7.40am, arrival Ubon Ratchathani 8.45am, and departure Bangkok 6pm, arrival Ubon Ratchathani 7pm,, return flights departure Ubon Ratchathani 9.15am, arrival Bangkok 10.20am and departure Ubon Ratchathani 7.25pm. arrival Bangkok 8.30pm, €33 to €35 one way).

By train

There are daily trains from Bangkok to Ubon Ratchathani in Thailand. Train 67 leaves Bangkok at 8:30pm and arrives in Ubon Ratchathani at 7:25am next morning. Train 68 leaves Ubon Ratchathani at 6:30pm and arrives in Ubon Ratchathani at 5:50am next morning, Rail services are operated by State Railway of Thailand (SRT). Both trains have first and second class sleeping and dining cars. First class sleeping cars are new, fully air-conditioned and consist exclusively of 2-berth-compartments.

Additional trains leave Bangok at 6:40am, 7:55pm, 10:25pm and 11:40 pm, arriving at Ubon Ratchathani at 6:20pm, 6:15am, 10:20am and 11:50am respectively, Return trains leave Ubon Ratchathani at 7am, 2:50pm, 3:05am and 7:30pm, arriving in Bangkok at 6:40pm, 11:15pm, 3:15am and 7:30am respectively. In these trains two classes ('2' and '3') are provided. '2' class is comfortable and modern, '3' class is extremely economical, but still acceptable.

By boat

There is no regular slow-boat service to Si Phan Don. If you can get a group together, you might be able to rent a private boat. One quote was for USD250. The boat landing is near the mouth of the Xe Don River.

By bus

Pakse has two bus stations that mainly serve locals. One serves traffic to the north and one to the south. Getting to right station with tuk-tuk is easy if you just tell the driver which place you are heading.

Northern bus station

The Northern bus station also called khiw lot lak jet or km-7-us station (tel 251 508) is about 10 km north of the city centre (15.1700 105.7600) on Route 13. Busses are very slow and have no air condition. Buses to Savannakhet and Thakhek leave from 6.30 am to 4.30 pm every 50 minutes, the trip to Savannakhet (280 km )takes 4 to 6 hours and costs Kip 35.000, to Thakhek 8 to 9 hours and costs Kip 50.000. Busses to Vientiane (680 km) need 16 to 18 hrs and cost Kip 100.000 to 150.000 (2011). Other busses go to Lao Bao (depart 6 am, Kip 100.000), Hue (depart 6.30 am, Kip 150.000) and Danang (depart 7 am, Kip 180.000, 2011). These are no direct buses and you will have to change buses twice.

Southern bus station

The Southern bus station (Khiw lot lak paet or Km-8-v´bus station) is 8km to the south, and costs 40,000 kip by motorbike, from the centre, on route 13.

To Si Phan Don: Busses to Muang Khon (120km, 3 hours, Kip 35,000 including ferry) leave from 7am to 3pm. You have to take the bus to Ban Nakassang (3 to 4 hours, Kip 30,000) if you want to go to Don Det and Don Khong. It is much more comfortable to take the international buses to Phnom Penh and quit at Don Det or Don Khong (Kip 55,000 including ferry).#

To Bolaven Plateau: There are freequent busses to Paksong (90 min, Kip 15,000) and some buses to Saravan (115 Km, 3 to 4 hrs, Kip 25,000), leaving before 2pm. Busses to Xekong (135 km, 4 hrs, 30,000 Kip) leave from 7am to 11 am every hour and go ahead to Attapeu (210km, 5 to 6h, Kip 40,000, 2011).

Minibuses head to/from Si Phan Don for 55,000-60,000 kip. For Si Phan Don it's also possible to go to the main bus terminal outside of the city and take a songthaew for 40,000 kip per person. Expect chickens and fish as your companions.

VIP busses

VIP buses from/to Vientiane operate from near the Champasak shopping centre in the city centre. The journey takes about 10 hours and should cost around 170,000-190,000 kip depending on whether you buy the ticket in the bus station or at tour agencies.

There are a number of VIP bus companies, and two of the popular ones are Chitprasom and Kriang Kai. Chitprasom (all sleeper buses) buses operate out of a station close to the shopping centre near the city centre. Kriang Kai (all sleeper buses) operate out of a private bus station 2 km from the town centre near an afternoon food market. A ticket to and from Vientiane will cost 210,000 kip per person when a one seater bus is available, 170,000 kip to share a double with another stranger, or 250,000 kip for double to be ridden alone if a one seater/sleeper is not available. If a single seater (210,000 kip) is available, 340,000 kip for a double seater/sleeper for either one or two person occupancy (Apr 2011). Chitprasom buses tend to be newer as KK has been around longer and have not updated their buses. When travelling from Pakse to Vientiane, take the KK buses as they will drop you off in the centre of Vientiane where their corporate office is, 2 min walk from the Cultural Hall, free of charge and save the 10,000 kip tuk-tuk ride into the city. All northbound buses, however, do stop at the Vientiane bus station, which is 9km from the city centre. If you are coming from Don Det and have not bought a through ticket, you can either get off at the KK terminal and buy ticket there with KK, or wait and get dropped in the city, and buy your ticket for Chitprasom.

Warning: women have been groped on these buses. If this happens to you, tell everyone on the bus what happened, and advise the authorities.

Chong Mek Border Crossing to Thailand

The border at Vang Tao (Laos) between Chong Mek (Thailand) is open fronm 5am to 6pm. Sawngthaews leave from Talat Dao Heuang (New MArket) in Pakse (75 min, Kip 10.000), Taxis charge Kip 20.000 per person or Kip 120,000 for the full taxi. The 44 Km trip by taxi to Vang Tao takes about 45 mins. There is a walk of about 300 meters to the Lao and further 100 meters to the Thai border station. Thai taxi drivers charge 900 to 1200 Baht for the 1 hr (80 km) drive by air conditioned van to Ubon Ratchani. You can also take a Sawngthaew to Phibun Magsahan (1 hr, 40 Baht) and take another Sawngthaew there to Ubon Ratchani (40 km, 1 hr, 40 Baht, 2011).

VIP buses from/to Thailand via the Chong Mek border crossing take about 2 hours and charge USD5/200 baht to Ubon. There are also minibuses to the border only. The Thai-Lao international bus between Pakse and Ubon Ratchani (126km, 2 to 3 hrs, Kip 55.000, 2011) is much more comfortable. Busses leave at Pakse at 8.30 am and 3.30 pm, from Ubon Ratchani at 7.30 am and 3.30 pm. Tickets from Pakse to Bangkok (14 hrs, daily a 3.30 pm,. Kip 200.000) and combined bus-sleeper tickets (departure at 3,30 pm, Kip 280.000) are also sold.

You need a valid Lao visa to enter at Vang Tao. However, if you enter Thailand without a visa, you will get a 15 to 30 days visa stamped into your passport.

At the Lao side, border officers ask for money for a stamp (20-100 baht). That is illegal; you can refuse to pay or demand a receipt. They can not give a receipt, so they promise to give a receipt tomorrow. Just wait and be patient; after 10-20 min, you will get free stamp.

Get around

This is a small town, so walk around. Otherwise there are tuk-tuks. A trip to the market will cost around 5,000 kip and USD1 to the bus station.

See

Museums

Monasteries

Do

There's not much to do in Pakse itself. However, this is a good base for travel to the Bolaven Plateau and Si Phan Don.

Pakse can be considered as a staging point for archaeological tourists in this part of Laos for two reasons: 1) it is where the Champasak Provincial Museum is located as an introductory to local archaeology, and 2) it is an alternative to Champasak city as a jumping off point for those wanting to see Wat Phou. Wat Phou is a designated UNESCO site and boasts the Lao counterpart to Angkor Wat/Angkor Thom. It's the finest of its genre outside Cambodia.

The museum is close to the new market, 500m north of the banks of the Mekong.

It's possible to organise a day-trip to Wat Phou near Champasak, where you can also stay easily.

Rent a motorbike and head east towards Pak Song (Paxxong). The journey is pretty, and there are heaps of waterfalls to stop by near Pak Song. The Champasak Provincial Tourism Department puts out a 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, 5,000 kip per person, 3,000 kip for the bike.

Tad Sae waterfall is off of Rte 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, if you search for Tad Sae on the Internet you will be directed to the one near Luang Prabang which is not the same.

Buy

Eat

The majority of restaurants — over 50 — are concentrated on the road which runs parallel to the Mekong, a five-minute walk from the main street). Most offer Lao cuisine and some western dishes, have English menus, and are low-priced. Several restaurants catering to tourists are found near most of the accommodation along and nearby the main street. These are higher-priced but offer more variety in non-Lao food, such as Indian, Italian, burgers, steaks and pizza.

Drink

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 will come to countless places to have a drink.

Sleep

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 side streets. Prices in Pakse are very high compared to the rest of the country; even higher than Vientiane. Expect to pay around double what you pay elsewhere in Laos and consider booking ahead.

Connect

These are several Internet cafes on the corner near Nazim's Indian restaurant that charge around 6,000 kip/hr. The smart new Tour Lao Cafe on the south end of the market plaza has Wi-Fi too.

Cope

Hospital, corner Th10 and Th46, tel. 212 018

Police, Th 10, tel. 212 145

Post Office, corner Th8 and Th1, South of city center

If you need to book a flight to your next destination:

Visa extensions

Visa extensions are possible at the police station on Rd 10, just down the road from the Salachampa Hotel and Restaurant. The cost is USD2 per day plus a 5,000 kip "form fee." The process is very easy: turn up in the morning with your passport and one photo; fill in a form and come back in the afternoon for your extension.

Go next

A single bus journey on VIP coach from Pakse to Phnom Penh costs 210,000 kip, and takes 13 hours including one hour at border. One company is Sengchaluean bus company, and includes tuk-tuk pick up from hotel via Lao Adventure Travel. DIY is not wise, as the bus station is more than 5 km to the east, a 20,000 kip tuk-tuk plus the fare quoted by the booth attendant at USD27. There is only one departure time, 08:00, although shown on the ticket as 07:30.

The border procedure is: 20 minutes from the last stop to the border, a man will appear together with other foreign passengers. Holding a stack of passports collected from the foreigners, he will walk the aisle, announcing that the border is near and those who have no visa should make ready their USD30. He distributes the Cambodian entry card and instructs everybody to complete it. Those who already have a visa should make ready their USD6 (the price of the departure stamp on the Laotian side, the entry stamp on the Cambodian side plus the Cambodian immigration card to be filled up included in the passport). This expediter instructs everybody to stay in place in their seats unless they want to unwind and stretch. As soon as he collects everything and the bus stops, he will disappear. After 40 minutes, he will return and hands out the stamped passports, with the visa sticker for those who have none, and the immigration card stamped and stapled.

At the next highway junction on the Cambodian side, the expediter will jump off, his mission accomplished.

It would be wise to leave the processing to the expediter, it's worry free, it's hassle free. Not to condone the corruption that may be involved, but because of the ocean of language barrier that keeps the tourist from being well informed and taking decisions correctly, just better leave it to these runners, unless one has the luxury of time.

Warning: For those proceeding to Cambodia by bus and making a pit stop at Pakse, dazed and just rudely awaken from sleep, do not ever be convinced to buy VIP bus tickets right away upon setting foot at the bus station. Drivers will talk you into buying them at USD75, a blunder that would have covered the cost of air ticket from Vientiane to Phnom Penh. If you have the stamina to walk with your luggage for about 500 m north where agencies line the main street, you can buy a ticket or better still, flag down a tuk-tuk to the bus station where the Cambodia-bound buses depart.

Alternatively, if you have a spare day, stay for the night (for 100,000 kip) and leave early next morning. Laos Adventure Travel at Rd 12, off the main street a few blocks east of the bridge, (Bhan Lak Muang), is reported to be a little cheaper than other agents.

Direct buses leave for Hue and Danang in Vietnam daily at around 07:30 from the Southern bus station. Bring your own food and water. The cowt is 160,000 Kip to Hue and 180,000 to Danang.

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Saturday, April 02, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.