The largest city in southern Laos yet a small city. Pakse is easily circled in an hour or so. To prove this I did. At 6am after waking to unforgettable Mekong views at the Champasak Palace Hotel I am straight out the door to circle the city. Walking from one end to the next. In Pakse there are three main bridges which cross the Mekong to leave the city. I don’t know the exact names so I have named them myself. The Palace Bridge which sits directly next to The Palace, the Korean bridge which leads to the residential areas of Pakse and the Japanese Bridge or Lao-Nippon Bridge which is the largest of the three. The bulk of the city is found between the three bridges. I set out from the Palace Hotel / Palace Bridge and walk towards the city centre, Wat Luang and the Korean Bridge. I walk along the No. 13 South Road (more on this road below). In search of things to do in Pakse.
A Buddhist Temple and school for monks. Wat Luang is found directly next to the Korean Bridge in Pakse. Go here first and go here early. In the morning hours monks are at their most active walking streets with alms bowls for temple collection. As I arrive they are lazing about in the Wat Luang temple area – bursting spots and stuff. Also worth crossing the Korean bridge here. By far the most interesting of bridges.
Along the Mekong
From the Korean Bridge and Wat Luang Temple I navigate the banks of the Mekong River towards the Japanese Bridge (Lao-Nippon Bridge). Not much going on in morning hours. This area is best in evenings or at night with Mekong sunsets, riverside restaurants and local karaoke bars. Probably the place for a cliched Beer Lao / Mekong River photo-op. I continue along the riverside to the Japanese Bridge.
Japanese Bridge Area
This is where the newer hotels are popping up. An ugly bunch and a likely hub for casinos, gambling and potential sleaze. Views here don’t compare to the ones I wake to at Champasak Palace Hotel. The surrounding area is a bit rough and ready. A lot of local markets (Dan Heuang Market) and roadside shops. Other than a unique market experience there isn’t much here for tourists. Walking further finds shops for auto-repairs, mattresses, air conditioning units etc… For markets and shopping I suggest sticking with the night market and Champasak Shopping Centre. I continue past the Japanese bridge but find nothing much of interest. I then turn back to the No. 13 South Road and back to my hotel.
No. 13 South Road
The main stretch of Pakse City found between Champasak Palace Hotel / Palace Bridge and Wat Luang / Korean Bridge. During the day; coffee shops, roadside restaurants, street food and tour operators. This is the best area to pick up morning baguettes or for booking tours and travel in the area. The Friendship Minimart handy for cheap wines. As with most of Laos the area comes to life in the evenings with local life (daytimes are hot).
The general drop-off point in Pakse is ‘the centre’ with its more touristic offerings. Shopping for tourist trinkets at Champasak Shopping Centre and Night Market or traditional Lao massage at opposite massage parlours. This area popular for congregations of local teens. The Centre sits directly next to Pakse Hotel and it makes a great starting point for roaming the backstreets in the area. It is found just off the main No. 13 South Road (towards No.48 Road) not far from the Mekong River and Wat Luang.
Where to Stay?
The Champasak Palace Hotel ($30) is an actual Palace… and completely unique experience. Check here for my review. Also offers a great riverside location, amazing views and has the perfect vantage point for travel to the centre. For cheaper guesthouses check the No. 13 South Road and the backstreets leading from it. Pictured is where I stayed. Well worth the extra pennies. And check here for full list of hotels.