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Laos Travel Blog: Champasak Attractions & What to See

Posted by: Ms.Jessica on 2015-08-30 22:09:34

Champasak in Laos

One of the most visited provinces of Laos; Champasak has a population of around 50,000 and is formed by Pakse, the Bolaven Plateau, Paksong, Champasak and Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands). Bordering Thailand and Cambodia, Pakse sits at the confluence of the Mekong and is the province’s capital, as a result of the Lao-Japanese Bridge spanning the Mekong, the town has quickly grown as an area of trading importance and is a popular tourist destination. The Mekong River flows past the ancient Khmer religious compound at Wat Phu Champsak, before dispersing at Four Thousand Islands, an area of utter tranquility. The Bolaven Plateau is renowned for its production of coffee, rattan, fruit and cardamom, while the vast number of wats (temples) across the terrain make for interesting viewing.

The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Wat Phu Temple compound, is a well-preserved planned landscape more than 1,000 years old. It was shaped to express the Hindu belief of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountain top to river bank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 km.

4,000 Islands

4,000 Islands in Laos

Known also as “Si Phan Don”, the Four Thousand group of small islands are dotted across the Mekong. The southern islands of Don Dhet and Don Khong are the two most visited as the remaining majority stay wild and uninhabited, largely due to their minute size. Both islands are situated close to the Cambodian border and as such provided a vital connection between Saigon and Laos during the French Colonial times when a railway was built to connect the two sides. Don Dhet is the most laid back of the two, although it has some bars and restaurants, Don Khong is the biggest and easier to reach and often a little busier with accommodation getting overcrowded at times. The waters surrounding the islands are home to the rare and illusive Irrawaddy dolphin and provide plenty of fish to the local villagers.

Self-sufficient villages survive on local produce including rice, coconuts, sugar cane and vegetables, with clothing and textiles made by their own weaving techniques as and when required. The islands are a great place to discover a new very rural side to Laos, rich in tradition and culture with old buildings, walking trails and a choice of places to sleep and eat.

4,000 Islands in Champasak

Don Dhet and Don Khong provide a chance to really escape from it all. There are some interesting rapids and waterfalls close to the Cambodian border including a waterfall that is rumoured to be the biggest in Southeast Asia, plus a chance to see the famous Irrawaddy dolphins. The dolphins are best spotted from the south of the island towards the end of the day from December until May. There is also a boat tour available from the end of the pier but remember you will need to pay regardless of whether the dolphins put in an appearance or not. Bicycles are available for rent which you can use to explore the entire Don Khong Island, expect to discover plenty of secluded beaches, rice fields and small villages along with some very old temples. The main village is Ban Khong which is home to Wat Jom Thong, a temple from the Chao Anou period built on the site of a Khmer temple with a hundred-year-old stupa alongside it. There are also a few villas dating back to the French colonial era and a market which gets busy early evening. Heading out west from the temple are the rapids and Li Phi Falls. If you are visiting in December then stay around for National Day when there is a five-day boat celebration with additional activities including late night boxing matches.

Remarks: The islands are best visited from November to January. March through to May brings very hot dry weather whilst the monsoon rains beat down and wash out the small roads from June to October. You can also use the islands to enter Cambodia via Voen Kham as long as you have a Cambodian visa. Reaching the islands depends entirely on the season with regards to which boats you can take, some boats do not run on new moon days due to superstition. Most boats depart from Pakse and small boats can be chartered from as little as $1US but you may find that you have to travel to Don Khong and then walk across to Don Dhet. The islands offer basic accommodation and do not have phones or electricity.

Bolaven Plateau & Tad fane Waterfall

Bolaven Plateau & Tad fane Waterfall in Laos

Bolaven Plateau in southern Laos is famous for its great scenery, ethnic villages and unexplored corners. It’s probably best known for being home to some of Southeast Asia’s most spectacular waterfalls including Tad Fane and Dong Hua Sao (aka Taat Fang). The plateau’s elevation ranges approximately from 1,000 to 1,350 metres above sea level and here the weather in general is milder than the rest of the country, getting cool, especially at night.

Its fertile plains allow farmers to produce some of the best tea and coffee in the country (coffee remains Laos’ biggest agricultural export.) Tourism has become another important source of income for locals as the area has almost unlimited trekking and daytrip opportunities.

Bolaven Plateau & Tad Fane Waterfall in Champasak

The impressive Tad Fane twin falls thunder over 100 metres down the steep cliffs into a gorge, located a few kilometres west of Paksong Town, Champasak Province. The scenic rainforest spot is part of a big national park where wild animals live, including leopards, tigers, elephants and monkeys. Hornbills are among the 300 bird species found in this area. • Opening Hours: All year round. The waterfalls are more impressive in the rainy season between July and October. If visiting between the months of October and February, visitors can observe the harvesting of coffee around the plateau. • Location: Bolaven Plateau is situated in the northeast of Champasak Province, covering parts of Salavan, Attapeu and Sekong provinces. The main town to use as a base is Pakse in Champasak.

• How to get there: Pakse has a large bus station with regular connections to other parts of Laos. It also has a small airport.

Wat Phu (Vat Phou)

Wat Phu (Vat Phou) in Champasak – Laos

Wat Phu (meaning “mountain temple”), is situated on a hillside and offers stunning views over the surrounding land and Mekong River. Visitors who appreciate art and history will be amazed by the magnificent workmanship in this ruined Khmer temple complex in the form of temple pillars, barays, lintels, pediments, terrace, courtyard, walls, doorways, sanctuary, shrine, library and palaces.

There is also a natural spring that is believed by locals to emit holy water. Older than the great temple complex at Angkor Wat in Cambodia, Wat Phu was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2002.

Wat Phu (Vat Phou) in Champasak

Wat Phu is considered one of the oldest archaeological sites in Laos. One temple in the site was constructed around the 5th century but most buildings found in the complex are from the 11th to 13th centuries. Like other notable Khmer architecture in Southeast Asia, it was constructed using sandstone, laterite and bricks. Among many of the outstanding carvings there are the Indra, the Hindu god of war, storms, and rainfall, riding a three-headed elephant and Vishnu riding on a garuda, an eagle. Wat Phu has been an active temple for Buddhist religious practice for quite some time because Buddhism replaced Hinduism in Laos in the mid 13th century. There is an altar at the front section of its sanctuary featuring four big Buddha images with more Buddha images around the ruins. If you visit Wat Phu on the full moon of the third lunar month (usually in February), you will come across the temple’s biggest annual festival with many impressive ceremonies and fun activities going on during the week-long period. These include monk-blessing ceremonies, elephant racing, buffalo and cock fighting as well as a trade fair. The event is never short of entertainment such as live music and traditional Lao dancing. • Opening Hours: All year round. • Location: In Pakse, the main city of Champasack Province in southwestern Laos.

• How to get there: Visitors can travel to Wat Phu from Pakse via land or by boat along the Mekong River.


Pakse in Champasak – Laos

Pakse is the capital of Champasak Province, founded by French colonialists in 1905. The kingdom was destroyed in 1946 after which the Kingdom of Lao was created.

Pakse is located at the mouth of the rivers Xedong and Mekong. The term Pakse means the ‘Mouth of the River Se’. This city is inhabited by 70,000 people and the Pakse International Airport serves as a link to the Bolaven Plateau. The construction of this airport was completed in November 2009, and has connections to Siem Reap, Vientiane and Bangkok.

Pakse Attractions

If this is your first visit to Pakse you must visit Mount Phou Asa which can be reached on the back of an elephant. Earlier there was a temple at the mountain which has now been reduced to ruins. The view of the plains from this vantage point is breathtaking.

Wat Luang is deemed as the most beautiful temple in Pakse. It is also where Wat Phabad, the Buddhist Monk School is located. Rumour has it that Lord Buddha left his footprint here, at Wat Phabad, the biggest and oldest temple of Pakse.

Pakse Restaurants

Other than local Lao food, restaurants at Pakse serve Thai, Chinese, Indian, western and Vietnamese cuisine as well.

For European & Vietnamese food visit Ketmany Restaurant on route 13. The breakfast here is Western style and the restaurant also serves Vietnamese cuisine with a good vegetarian lasagna. Other than that pizzas and gnocchi are also available and a wide range of Thai dishes. The coffee served by owners Alan and Siriporn is the best in town and is procured from their own plantation close to Paksong. Part of the money raised from the business is also used to establish schools for the kids of plantation labourers.

Pakse Nightlife

Visit Le Panorama at the Pakse Hotel in Bane Watlouang on No. 4 Street to enjoy the rooftop restaurant located on the seventh floor, overlooking the Mekong River. It serves a combination of Asian, Western and Fusion cuisine, all prepared by a French chef. Although the prices are high here, the food is definitely worth it. Situated on the northeastern corner of Rt13 and 24th street the Katuad café not only serves good coffee but it also has free WiFi.

Lotty is a nightclub that is frequented by most of the young locals for some casual drinking and dancing late into the night.

Pakse Shopping

If you want to buy some souvenirs for your family and friends back home check out Champasak Plaza Shopping Centre. You will find silk, electronic products, clothes and small items perfect for gifts here. However, if you want to experience some quality shopping, go to Luang Prabang or Vientiane instead of Pakse.

Pakse Activities

The Clinic Keo Ou Done is located to the East on Rte 13. If you turn right after going straight for 100m, at the 3km mark, follow the Massage Sauna sign for another 800m you should find it. It is open from 16:00 to 21:00 on weekdays and from 10:00 to 21:00pm on weekends.

It’s about a half-hour walk from the city centre to the bowling alley, or you can ride the tuk-tuk on the main road. Tuk-tuks can be hard to find, especially later in the evening.


By air

You can take a flight from Siem Reap or Vientiane to the Pakse International Airport. If this airport is not functional for any reason you can fly to Savannakhet in the south from Luang Prabang and Vientiane instead. Bangkok has direct flights to the city via Lao Airlines. You can take a flight from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam as well.

By water

Make use of the daily slow-boat service offered to Si Phan Don at 08:00 in the morning to be dropped off at the mouth of Xedong River. You must book this a day in advance.

By road

There are two bus services offered in Pakse. One of them carries local traffic to the north, and the other to the south. The best way to reach the bus station is to take a tuk-tuk and ask the driver to take you to the right one.

VIP bus service

These buses operate from the Champasak Shopping Centre and travel to and from Vientiane. The 10-hour ride’s price may vary slightly depending on the mode of purchase, if you buy it first hand at the counter or through a travel agency. Among the well-known VIP bus services are Kriang Kai and Chitprasom.


Paksong in Champasak – Laos

The capital of coffee production in Laos, has a few places to stay and is usually visited on an over night trip from Pakse. The main attraction of the area is the Tat Lo Waterfall which has a large pool at the bottom suitable for swimming.

Although this is not the most magnificent of Laos waterfalls it remains popular with visitors due the lethargic atmosphere that surrounds the area. From Tad Loa, having a bike makes it easier to reach Tad Suong – the most impressive of the waterfalls.

Tours in Laos

• Vientiane – Luang Prabang – 5 Days/ 4 Nights
• Luang Prabang – Vientiane – 5 Days/ 4 Nights
• Hidden Delights of Laos – 4 Days/ 3 Nights
• Laos Sightseeing – 4 Days/ 3 Nights
• Laos Intangible Charms – 4 Days/ 3 Nights
• Luang Prabang – 3 Days/ 2 Nights