Pakse is also known as Pakxe and is the charming capital of the Champasak province in the south of Laos. This is also the second most populous city in the country, and many people come through here to visit other famous spots like the Bolaven Plateau and the Si Phan Don Islands. This is also the place where you will find the convergence of the Sedone and Mekong rivers and so it is well worth spending a few days here before you move on to other spots in the country.
As this is a riverside town, you can spend time watching the river and strolling along the delightful waterfront promenade for which Pakse is famous. Some of the other reasons to visit Pakse include the delightful colorful markets as well as the stunning temples and the delicious street food stands that serve fresh local Laotian fare.
Here are the 15 best things to do in Pakse…
1. Admire Wat Luang
Wat Luang is said by locals to be the largest and prettiest temple in all of Pakse and is also the home of a number of monks who live on the property.
If you want to see the famous Laotian alms giving ceremonies performed by the monks, then this is one of the best places to do so.
Another good reason to come here is that this is one of the most beautiful but also less-visited temples in Laos so you won’t have to compete with the crowds.
2. Visit Wat Phou Salao
Wat Phou Salao is a charming temple in a Pakse that is located on a pretty hill that looks out over the Mekong River.
The temple has the claim to fame of having a large statue of the Buddha and, as you would expect, the best time to come here is around sunset when you can enjoy majestic vistas across the countryside.
One thing to note is that you will need to climb up a long and steep staircase to get to the temple so make sure you plan accordingly and wear appropriate footwear.
3. Tour Sacred Heart Church
As you would expect in Laos, you will find temples scattered all over the countryside.
If you are looking for a change of architectural pace however, then you can also visit the Sacred Heart Church which doesn’t look very impressive from the outside but which is actually best known for its interior decorations.
Once inside you will find a number of custom paintings such as Jesus visiting different regions in Laos such as the famous Khon Phapheng Falls and Wat Phu Champasak.
What makes the whole thing even more surreal is that Jesus is also wearing regional outfits in the paintings.
4. Take a trip to Mai Savanh Lao Farm
Mai Savanh Lao Farm is also called the Silk and Tea Farm and is located in Thateng which is around 10 kilometers outside Pakse.
The farm is run by a local NGO and is meant to provide a livelihood for disadvantaged ethnic minorities in the surrounding villages.
The farm is covered in aromatic local plants such as lemongrass, pepper and tea plantations and you can also find pineapples and mulberries here.
To learn all about the work of the farm and the produce on show, you can take an interesting tour with a local guide.
5. Shop at Pakse Souvenirs
Pakse Souvenirs is the place to come if you are interested in local souvenirs, and this shop sells pieces in both the northern and southern styles.
The aim of the shop is to create modern pieces which blend traditional patterns and you will find items such as textiles, furniture, carvings and jewelry.
One of the great things about the items on sale here is that some are made with recyclable materials such as secondhand linens.
6. Stroll along the banks of the Mekong
If you are looking for something to do at night in Pakse then you might want to head to the banks of the Mekong River that runs through town.
There is a riverfront promenade here and you will find some local street food stalls as well as a few restaurants that look out over the water.
There are also several boat restaurants if you fancy dining on the Mekong itself.
7. Eat at Ban Tong Night Market
Ban Tong Night Market is a good place to come if you fancy a bite to eat at night although you won’t be able to eat here as there are no chairs or tables.
You can still however get some delicious bites to take away and there are plenty of pretty spots along the river where you can sit and enjoy the local snacks.
Bear in mind that most of the food is cooked fresh in front of you so you can just peruse the stalls and pick out what you want to eat based on what looks good on the day.
8. Enjoy the Boat Race Festival
If you are in Pakse at the end of October then make sure you head to the Boat Race Festival.
This lasts for some three days and this is when large boats paddle along the Xe Don River.
There is also a carnival held in Pakse and you can visit the fairgrounds that are set up with games and street food snack stalls.
There are also usually street performances such as drumming and musical competitions.
9. Try the noodles
Pakse, and wider Laos, is known for its noodle dishes which you can get all over town.
These are mainly noodle soup dishes which come with a dizzying array of herbs and they make a great snack if you are looking for something wholesome and soothing.
The best thing about the noodle stands in Pakse is that you can get a bowl of soup for as little as KYT 15,000.
10. Shop at Talat Dao Heuang
Talat Dao Heuang is known for being the largest market in town and is located close to the famous Japanese Bridge in Pakse.
Not only is it the biggest market of its kind in the city but it is also known for being one of the largest and most varied across the whole of Laos.
On a trip here you will find delicious local fruits and vegetables and there are also sections that sell oddities like traditional medicine as well as electronics, clothes and shoes.
11. Eat at the baguette stalls
As Laos used to be a former French colony, there is a great tradition of eating delicious breads here.
With that in mind, you will find toothsome baguettes being sold all over Pakse, and usually these are served up to you out of carts at the side of the road.
Most of the baguettes are simply stuffed with tasty pork pate and mean to be eaten as a snack although vegetarians may be able to get other options that use local herbs, salads and omelets.
12. Have a drink on the riverfront
As with many towns and cities in Southeast Asia, the best place to find a sunset drink in Pakse is down by the waterfront.
The local tipple in Laos is beer Lao and you will find a number of stalls, cafes and eateries lining the gorgeous Mekong River.
To get to this part of town you will need to walk across the delightful French Bridge which affords you pretty views across the river.
13. Travel on to the Bolaven Plateau
The Bolaven Plateau is, ironically, one of the main reasons that many visitors even find themselves in Pakse.
This is also one of the main tourist spots in Laos and is made up of a large plateau that is covered in rivers, majestic jungle and cascading waterfalls.
This is also the region of the ethnic Laven group in Laos and you will also find some traditional villages dotted around the area.
With that in mind, the best way to end your stay in Pakse is to move on to the Bolaven Plateau and check out all the beauty of this iconic region of Laos.