Pakse is the Province capital city (around 65.000 inhabitants).
Founded by the French as an administrative outpost in 1905 this is a relatively new town at the confluence of the Mekong and the Se Don river (hence its name which means "mouth of Se" river). The town has undergone a significant infrastructures renovation in the last few years and it is no more the dusty town that it was before.
The city is a primary departure point for travellers destined for the Bolaven Plateau, the Khmer ruins of Wat Phou, the Si Phan Don area and other emerging tourist sites in the province as well as a border cross to Ubon Ratchathani, Thailand.
Despite its French origin, there are very few colonial-era building left standing and most of the new modern building lack any distinctive design. Along the Mekong River bank there is a delightful and enjoyable esplanade with many restaurants and bars.
It may be worthing to pay a visit to the local "Champasak Historical Heritage Museum" while in town. It is open daily from 8am-11.30am and 1pm-4pm and you can find it on route 13 near the hotel Residence du Champa just outside the city center.
At present there is a good selection of guesthouses and more pricey hotels in town, your best option may be to hire a tuk-tuk and have a look before making a selection.
Money exchange is possible in different banks in town, BCEL bank (near the Tourism Office along the Se river) accepts travellers cheques and it is possible to get cash advances with Visa and Mastercard credit cards.
It is also possible to find many travel agencies which can arrange short or long tours in Champasak province and other locations, although a more expensive option it is certainly a more comfortable way to travel around.
Short trips that are possible from Pakse:
- Ban Saphai is a well known weaving village 15 km north off route 13, textiles can be bought directly from the villagers at a cheaper price that you would pay at the market in Pakse. Close to the village there is the island of Don Kho in the middle of the Mekong, the local population is also involved in weaving and it makes for a more pleasant visit during the heat of the day with its shady trails and easygoing villagers.
- Wat Pohu Ngoi, is located at about 12 km south of Pakse, it is a forest Wat (temple) that can be reached only by river by hiring a boat from the old ferry landing in Pakse (even if it is not easy to find one). The wat is located on a hill overlooking the Mekong with a spectacular view of the river and the surrounding countryside.
- Waterfalls: on Route 13 going to the south Bus Station "Lak Pet" you may notice a signboard on the left side of the road indicating the way to a nice waterfall.