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Pakse

Pakse is the transport hub of the south and a gateway for exploring the southern Lao Mekong. It is the capital and most populous city in the southern province of Champasak, making it the third most populous city in the country. Lao cities still retain elements of small towns: traffic flows slowly, roads are dusty, no one appears to be in a rush, and Pakse is no exception.

Pakse has modernised in many parts but has luckily managed to hold on to its charming French architecture and leafy streets that afford the city a certain character. There are some good restaurants to enjoy both Lao and international cuisine at, as well as some fascinating markets to explore where you can join local Laotians buying and selling goods of all kinds.

Hotels in Pakse town are relatively simple, but nearby in wider Champasak province there are more comfortable lodge options, and a converted rice barge from which to explore the southern Lao Mekong region. As Pakse town is the gateway to southern Laos, we recommended travelling further into Champasak province: visiting the Angkorian temple of Wat Phou, and taking in the serene countryside surrounding it from the flat plains of southern Laos with the occasional hills to the flowing waterfalls and coffee plantations. As the Mekong river widens further south, it is possible to visit one of the many serene river islands in the Si Phan Don – Four Thousand Islands region close to Cambodia.

Pakse can be very easily combined with northern or central Laos as there are regular flights to the small airport. For some interesting insights into the two neighbouring countries, southern Laos can be combined with northeastern Thailand, a region known as Isaan, that shares many cultural, linguistic and culinary similarities with its smaller and less developed neighbour. The land border crossing is close to Pakse, and on the Thai side there are regular flights (and trains) to Bangkok.

The dusty plains of southern Laos get incredibly hot in April and May – so the best time of year to visit on a tailor-made tour of Laos is in between November and March when the weather is warm and dry.

 

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I can't think of anything that excites a greater sense of childlike wonder than to be in a country where you are ignorant of almost everything.
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