Pakse isn’t the most exciting town, and most people only travel to the south of Laos to go to Si Phan Don. We opted to not suffer the 16 hour bus ride and spend a day in Pakse instead. Though it is small and uneventful, it does have its bright spots! The Bolaven Plateau is an awesome place to explore by scooter for the day, and our hostel was one of our favourites during our trip. If you have the time, give Pakse a chance, but if you’re on a tight schedule we’d recommend spending more time in the backpacker paradise that is Si Phan Don.
How to Get There
The bus from Vientiane is a grueling 13 hours, though the trip is made up of relatively flat and straight roads. It didn’t help that the bus broke down at 5:30am and we were shuttled onto another bus while half asleep. The ticket cost 160,000 kip ($26 CAD). This was without the extra hours it took to get all the way down to Si Phan Don, so be prepared for a long trip either way!
We travelled in both directions between Pakse and Si Phan Don. On the way to Si Phan Don, we took a local bus to save money, which was a mistake. It took way longer and we were shoved into the back of a songthaew. At one point we stopped and had meat on sticks shoved in our faces by locals. We were miserable but in retrospect it’s part of the local experience! We were told it was 20,000 kip each but when we got out they doubled the price and left us 5km from our destination, which was also super uncool. Luckily a guy from Toronto of all places saw us walking down the road and gave us a ride.
On the way back we took a much simpler route for 70,000 kip each, which included both the boat and bus back to Pakse. The whole trip took just over 4 hours, even though they said it would be 3 hours. When you get off the boat you need to walk up the road to the bus station for 5-10 mins, though no one tells you that.
Lastly we also booked a bus from Pakse to Hué, Vietnam. Not the usual route to Vietnam, and we found out why pretty quickly. However it did save us money and time, the other option was to take the bus up to Vientiane and bus from there or fly. The bus cost 230,000 kip ($38 CAD), which was steep, but again it’s not a usual trip. The 13 hour marathon bus ride was confusing and frustrating, but we managed to cross the border in one piece. Check out our post on Crossing the Laos Border for more info.
Where to Stay
- Khaemse Guesthouse – We’ve also seen it spelt Kaemse Guesthouse. One of our favourite guesthouses, it was simple yet made our stay in Pakse a lot better. It’s located at the end of the a dirt road (No. 12) overlooking Xe Don river. There’s a nice porch with hammocks right overtop of the water where we spent a ton of time catching up in our journals. The room is spacious and clean, and the owners are very nice. Our room cost 60,000 kip ($10 CAD). You can’t book Khaemse Guesthouse online, but if you want to book in advance you can find cheap accommodation in Pakse here.
What to Do
- Bolaven Plateau – An area littered with waterfalls, this is an amazing way to spend the day. We rented a fully automatic scooter for 100,000 kip ($16 CAD); the first time we’d rented a scooter on the trip. Most scooter rental owners can give you a map and directions to the waterfalls. Alex got the hang of it pretty quickly, and once we were on the road cutting through the plateau there was barely any traffic. Once you’re on the main road keep an eye out for signs for the waterfalls, there’s 4 or 5 along the road. We saw Tad Yuang and Tad Cham Pee. Tad Yuang was 10,000 kip entry and 5,000 kip for parking, but totally worth it (under $5 CAD for both of us!). The waterfall was massive, and we were able to walk down stairs to get great views. You can also swim in the river at the top which was super refreshing! Tad Cham Pee was a little more tame, but it was a very peaceful place. You can swim in the lagoon below it, and we also grabbed some cheap food near the gate. The entry for this one was 5,000 kip and 3,000 kip for parking.
Where to Eat
- La Panorama – This is a rooftop restaurant located on the 7th floor of the Pakse Hotel. There isn’t a ton to see in Pakse, but it was still a pretty cool place! Food was relatively cheap, and it was a fun way to celebrate seeing a bunch of cool waterfalls and surviving our scooter trip.
- La Vida – An air conditioned spot near Khamese Guesthouse, it offers some great western breakfasts. Pretty much ideal for us as it was close, and a perfect way to get out of the heat for a bit. They also have a water cooler where you can fill up reusable water bottles if you ask nicely.
- Beer Garden – We learned pretty quickly that there isn’t much nightlife in Pakse as we walked around the town at 10pm. However we stumbled upon a pretty great Beer Garden near Sala Champa hotel and had a fun night. The beer was super and the spring rolls also hit the spot.