We've just added another Travelfish Guide to our small collection of PDF guides to the region. The latest one is to the most popular province in southern Laos -- Champasak -- home to Wat Phu, 4,000 islands -- and loads more
The 18 page PDF guide includes six maps, over 75 (closer to 100 I think...) detailed listings for accommodation, restaurants, bars, sights and attractions and all up some 20,000 words of travel intelligence to the region. All that for a paltry US$2.95 -- how's that for value! You can read more about it here.
On June 15, 2007, I took the Ubon-Pakse bus from Ubon bus station in northeast Thailand to Pakse in Champasak province, Laos. The bus leaves Ubon at 7am, 9.30am (not 9am as stated in the guide), 2.30pm and 3.30pm and takes about 3 hours to arrive in Pakse. The journey from Ubon to the border at Chong Mek takes about 1.5 hours, and from Chong Mek to Pakse it is about 40 minutes. On my way from Ubon to Pakse, the bus stopped for 50-60 minutes at Chong Mek for travelers to clear customs. All travelers were already done and back on the bus within 20-30 minutes but it did not leave till the drivers had had a break. On my way back on June 17, 2007, the bus stopped for 30-40 minutes at Chong Mek. The bus from Pakse to Ubon leaves at 7.30am, 8.30am, 3.30pm and 4.30pm. There is no 2.30pm departure, contrary to the guide. The cost has also been raised to 57,000 kip, although I paid 200 baht, like I did from Ubon.
There is a Lao Development Bank at Chong Mek, which is open from Mondays to Fridays, and I would advise you to exchange some Laotian kip there as petty cash, even if the rate is a bit low (but still better than the street rate I think - the Thai baht and, especially at business establishments, including guesthouses, the USD, are widely accepted at about 100 baht to 27,000 kip, and USD1 to 9,300 or 9,400 kip). If you pay in these hard currencies, you can expect to receive the equivalent change (if any) in Laotian kip. It is also possible to use a combination of these currencies, for example 55,000 kip is also 200 baht and 1,000 kip. Unless you are going to stay in Pakse, you will find the banks there too far away and out of the way on your way to the southern bus terminal.
You should keep 10,000 kip to pay customs on your way out. I paid 10,000 on a Sunday afternoon, so the guide's 70 baht seemed a little off, and over-priced. There was an official notice that the rate was USD1. On the way in, however, the fee was 50 baht (which is about 13,500 kip, although the request was made in baht, which I assume to be the only acceptable currency).
I took the 9.30am bus from Ubon to Pakse, arriving at the southern bus terminal just after 1pm, so I missed the last bus to Champasak. The tuk-tuk driver took me around, trying to hail a big tuk-tuk going in that direction. He managed to after about 20 minutes, and I was on my way after paying him a small tip (10 baht, although he had asked for 5,000 kip; I was conned to pay 10,000 kip for the ride to the southern bus terminal when it was only 5,000 kip, which was closer to what I thought it should be - initially, I was even quoted 15,000 kip, but I refused).
The bus to Champasak would have cost 15,000 kip, not the 10,000 stated in the guide (prices seemed to have gone up by 50% overnight), whereas I paid 20,000 kip which took me all the way to Champasak (including the ride across the river). The journey took about 2 hours.
I'd say it was a stroke of providence, although there seemed to be a few of those big tuk-tuks heading south of Pakse, especially in the morning and early afternoon. It was a little trickier the other way around, although I did catch a big tuk-tuk going to Pakse which had apparently come up to Champasak from Don Dhet/Don Khon for 10,000 kip after I'd crossed the Mekong river and waited for about 20 minutes. It was 15,000 from the guesthouse to Route 13, and another 5,000 kip from about 9km on Route 13 to the VIP bus terminal back to Ubon.
I dutifully paid the 30,000 kip per night requested of me for the private room (it had a fan, a double bed, and an attached bath with a western toilet) at Vong Pasued (where I was dropped off), although you could negotiate for a discount if so inclined. If you are not too tight on your budget, I'd say just pay that extra dollar. It doesn't cost you much, and the owner probably deserves it. He was very friendly and helpful.
#2 Samantha2005 has been a member since 14/6/2007. Posts: 1
Thanks so much for the update -- especially regarding the pricing changes. I'm not sure if you're still on the road, but if you are, and would like another Travelfish Guide, please let me know which one and I'll credit your account with the freebie.
Cheers & thanks again