After writing about the review of my experience staying at Dream Resort Farm in Pakse last week, I finally got a chance to sit down and share my whole Pakse experience when I was in Champasak.
As I previously mentioned, visiting Pakse wasn't on my initial plan for my Indochina trip. I went to Pakse as I found out that the city was an excellent place to go to Laos from Cambodia overland.
I figure it's a sweet spot for transit before I got to the capital city in Vientiane. It didn't take 10++ hours by bus from Siem Reap, and there are still things to see around the city, even if you're only there for a short stay.
As visiting Pakse was out of my initial itinerary, I wasn't too ambitious to travel around the city. I only spent half of my first day walking around the city, and that was it. Still, I'm glad that I made it even when I did it the lazy way!
4 Tips for Lazy Travel Around Champasak
When I mention Champasak here, I was referring to the province in Southern Laos and not to mistake it for the Champasak cultural landscape, which includes the Vat Phou temple complex in Champasak's charming town.
Vat Phou, the ancient Khmer temple complex in Champasak, is listed as the UNESCO World Heritage site in Laos. While you can reach the temple from Pakse for a day trip, I'm not going to talk about it since I didn't get a chance to go there.
Did you know?
Apart from being the capital of Champasak province in South Laos, Pakse is also the 2nd most populous city in the country after Vientiane. It serves as the primary transport and commerce hub around the southern part of Laos.
I spent a day in Pakse city center with a pretty laid back style of travel. I didn't pressure myself to go to all the must-visit places in Pakse, but I managed to stop by some spots on the list.
Here are the tips that I've learned to travel easy around Pakse in South Laos!
1. Use Google Maps.
As I didn't buy the sim card when I arrived in Pakse from Siem Reap, I bought it when the hotel dropped me off around the market in Pakse city center. I bought Unitel provider for 80,000 LAK (around $9 USD), including the sim card and the mobile data for 7 days.
The reception is fairly good, as I could use Google Maps with no problem to stroll around the city. The only downside was the fact that the sim card price was a bit more expensive than I expected.
2. Make sure to have Google Translate installed on your phone if you don't speak Lao.
If you plan to do the DIY tour around Pakse, I'd strongly recommend you to have Google Translate or any other translation app to help you communicate with the locals. I figure it's even harder to find someone who speaks English, even compared to small cities in Vietnam like Chau Doc.
I had a hard time when I bought the sim card, as the staff who assisted me with the card didn't know how to explain the mobile data that I subscribed to or inform me how to top up verbally.
But other than that, Google translate did a pretty good job when ordering a menu at the restaurant or asking someone for direction.
Although I figure most people at the tourism center can speak English just fine, you don't have to worry about purchasing a bus ticket or booking a tour at some agents around the city center.
3. Don't forget to use sunblock when you travel around by foot.
I arrived in Laos on 02.02.2020 and I've learned the hard way that Pakse in February was freaking hot!
For your own convenience, use sunblock before you go out. I used mine, and my skin still got burnt. Mind you, I was supposed to handle the sun better on my skin, but nope, it didn't work when I was in Laos.
Apart from sunblock, I think it would be a bonus if you could carry a jar of aloe vera gel if you travel to Pakse at the same time of the year. I figure if I had one with me at the time, it would be quite refreshing to use on my skin after getting my skin burnt under the sun.
4. Avoid the riverside area if you travel in the afternoon.
The riverside area was the spot that hit the most by the sun, and when I found out that the area is usually hyped at night, I went there in the afternoon, and I couldn't tell except for the fact that I saw some quiet bars and restaurants by the river.
I stopped at one restaurant and tried this local salad that was super delicious by the riverside. Mind you, it was hot and spicy, and the taste was kind of unexpected even for my Indonesian tongue! 😛
4 Places to Go Around Pakse City Center
I would consider Pakse as a city that is pretty easy to explore. I walked around the city center from one spot to the other by using Google Maps, and I did just fine.
The highlight of my transit in Pakse before I got to Vientiane was that I visited 4 places around the city center. So, what are there to see around Pakse?
1. Wat Luang
Located on the SeDon river's banks close to the bridge over the river, the temple is only around 20 minutes walk from the bus stop where I arrived in Pakse the day before. Around the corner of the street where the bridge started, it is where the temple entrance is.
Wat Luang is not only one of the biggest Buddhist temples in Pakse, but it is also a home and a school for some Buddhist monks. As I read the information before I went there, I somewhat had a huge expectation about the temple.
However, when I entered the temple, I admit that it was smaller than I expected. I also saw some information on the internet about how it was easy to meet and have a chat with Buddhist monks around the temple. But when I was there, the temple was super quiet that I wasn't sure whether there was anyone there.
2. Sacred Heart Church
I got the idea about places to go in Pakse from this article written by The Crazy Tourist, I knew I wanted to go to Sacred Heart Church the moment I read about it.
The only thing was that I couldn't find Sacred Heart Church on Google Maps when I was there, so I just search with the word “church”. While there were a few options that direct me to the church, it was pointed in one spot, so I just followed the direction.
It was quite intriguing to see what's there, especially since in the article, they mentioned about how they have some paintings of Jesus around Laos inside the church.
However, when Google Maps notified me that I already arrived at the church, I second-guessed the location as the church looked nothing like the one I saw in the article. I don't know when exactly the post was published, but when I took the second look, I figure the church was probably renovated after that.
The church still has similar architecture, like the one that I saw in the article. Although everything else seems new. From the wall that outlined the brick, and also the color of the church exterior. It looks modernized, and honestly, I like the new one better.
Unfortunately, when I went there, there was nobody at the church so I wasn't sure what to do or whether I should try to open the closed church door.
Since I wasn't sure, I just took some pics of the church's architecture and left for boba afterward. #AsianProblem
3. Talat Dao Heuang
I know some travelers who can't miss the local wet market whenever they travel to a new place. And if you happen to be one of these travelers and you plan to stop by Pakse, Talat Dao Heuang is where to go in the city.
Not only is it the biggest wet market in town, but it's also one of the largest markets in Laos.
I got dropped off by the market when I reached the city center, so I got a chance to see around. You can also find not only local fruits and vegetables but also electronics, clothes, and even money changers around the market.
4. Local Coffee Shop.
This might be on your must-do list if you're a coffee lover like me. However, what's special about the coffee around Pakse is that Champasak is the primary location for coffee production in Laos. So if you want to sip Lao coffee in the most authentic style, try one around the province.
Coffee was first introduced to Laos during French occupation when it was initially planted in the country's northern part. Later on, they discovered that the region wasn't suitable for the planting method applied at that time.
It was only in 1949 when they moved the coffee plantings in Bolavens Plateau, making Champasak become one of the most important coffee-producing areas throughout Laos.
So, those are some tips and places to travel on the lazy way around Pakse in Champasak province in the southern part of Laos. Have you been there? Or are you planning to transit in the city, maybe once coronavirus is over?
If you have, share your insights below. If you haven't, tell me if you're interested in visiting the city. Stay safe, and cheerio! 🙂