Like Luang Prabang in the north, the southern town of Pakse, Laos oozes French colonial style, is at the confluence of two rivers and blends the laid back Lao culture with great bars and restaurants. While it might be tempting to immediately leave town to see the sites in Champasak Province, spending a couple of days in town just might make you fall in love with it. Follow this guide on how to spend 48 hours in Pakse.
Breakfast at Lao Vida
You’ve gotten off the night bus or out of the airplane and you need to fuel up for a day of sight seeing. Set your sights on Vida Bakery and Cafe, which is run by an organization which teaches English and gives vocational training to Lao locals. Amazing baked goods, sandwiches and bagels await your tastebuds and your money goes to a good cause.
With full bellies it’s time to get a bird’s eye view of Pakse. Rent a bicycle from your guest house or any number of tour operators in the city and head out of town across the Mekong River by way of the Lao-Japan Friendship Bridge. You’ll see the giant Golden Buddha across the way. That’s your destination. Park your bike and hike up the steps to the top to get a panoramic view of Pakse. Then cycle back over the bridge and around the peninsula to get your bearings.
Once you’ve had your fill of cycling, you’ll want a nice rest and some food. Stop by Dok Mai Trattoria and ask for a table in the secret garden. You’ll be lead out the door and down a small alley to an outdoor seating area filled with plants and tables with umbrellas. Order a glass of wine, a cheese plate and some pasta. This Italian-owned gem has some of the best food in town.
Spend your afternoon leisurely checking out Wat Luang, and Phabat or any of the other 18 temples in Pakse. Wat Luang is the oldest and houses a monastic school as well. Walk around the peninsula bordered by the Xe Don and Mekong Rivers, or cross over the Xe Don and check out the park.
Le Panorama bar on the rooftop of the Pakse Hotel has one of the best views of the sunset. Come for happy hour between 5-6pm where drinks are buy one get one free. The food is good and the menu offers both Lao and Western dishes. The yellow curry comes recommended, as do the mojitos.
Once the sun has set, it’s time to get out on the town for drinks and live music at Pizer. A large outdoor patio and an indoor stage gives options for those who want to rock out with the band or opt for a quieter table and conversation. Order big Beer Laos and the phenomenal wait staff will make sure your glasses are always full with ice and beer.
The Dao Coffee company is big business in the south of Laos. Dao products can be found throughout the country and a 618 acre (250 hectare) plantation in Champasak Province yields 500 tons of coffee per year. Visit the Tea Room in town for an iced or hot cup of joe and a noodle soup or paté sandwich. The service is excellent and the ambiance cozy and spotless.
While there is much to see and do in town, Pakse is, in fact, in the perfect location to explore Champasak province. Opt for an organized half-day tour of the Bolevan plateau to see waterfalls, coffee farms and ethnic textile and woodworking villages. If temples and history are more your style, head down to the smaller town of Champasak and check out Wat Phou, a Khmer temple ruin.
When you’re back in town, get an afternoon pick-me-up at the impeccably decorated, Japanese-run 124 Thaluang Coffee. Order a fantastic home-brewed ginger ale or a pour over coffee and enjoy the curated ambiance of this hidden gem. An assortment of gifts and textiles are for sale and there’s a small library of mostly Japanese books to peruse.
When you’re ready to grab a bite and watch the sunset, choose from one of several floating restaurants around the peninsula. Mekong Lane Xang is a favorite with a large open air patio as well and indoor seating. Listen to live music as the sun sets and if you’re feeling bold, sing some karaoke.
After a relaxing dinner it’s time to liven the mood with more live music and Beer Lao. Sinjuang Beer Garden is a popular local hangout. While the staff doesn’t speak a lot of English, you’ll have no problem ordering a beer and reminiscing about two great days in Pakse in the bustling beer garden atmosphere with modern decor.