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Laos forum

Need some convincing to see South Laos

Posted by gatoguts on 23/6/2015 at 19:21

I've been to northern Laos, but never made it to south Laos for lack of time. I've been to Angkor, and wondering will I be underwhelmed by Champasak, or is it still definitely worth a visit? I probably only have about a week, hopefully enough time for Pakse , Champasak, and the 4000 islands. I really enjoyed northern Laos... does the south pale in comparison, or it does it have its own distinctive charms? (I'm guessing Pakse is no Luang Prabang)

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Posted by somtam2000 on 23/6/2015 at 20:09 admin

Yeah very different - we ran a piece on this a while back that may be useful.

Wat Phu is no Angkor, but it is still a lovely site, and I do like Champasak town a lot -- it's laid back and pretty - good with a couple of paperbacks.

Pakse is no LPG you're right, and with just a week, assuming you're comfortable with slow travel and a lot of time by the river, the spots you've picked out are solid choices. Ban Saphai makes a good day trip from Pakse, though many get a bike and head to the Bolaven for the waterfalls etc, though am not sure you'd have time for that.

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Posted by exacto on 23/6/2015 at 20:53

I've been to both north and south, and I'd say you can't go wrong either way. But as you haven't been south yet, I'd say it is worth a look this time. Personally, I loved Pakse when I visited in 2010, because it reminded me of Chiang Mai when I'd lived there in 1985. As somtam mentioned, Champasak is very laid back and a great place to catch up on a few novels, and I thought Wat Phu was worth every bit of effort it took to get there.

Depending on which route you take, it might give you a chance to explore parts of Thailand that most travelers don't get to see either, like Ubon or even Mukdahan. Regards.

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Posted by gatoguts on 23/6/2015 at 21:25

thank you both for your insights, and yes exacto, that was actually my plan, to stop in phanom rung (not mukdahan) and ubon on the way to pakse

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Posted by mooball on 31/7/2015 at 08:49 TF writer

I'm a big fan of the south of Laos. Totally different from the north. So much so that it often feels like a different country. If you're in Pakse, I'd just nip down to Champasak and choose an island to visit down south... but probably not the main party island as it's pretty awful.

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Posted by MADMAC on 4/8/2015 at 12:04

"...but probably not the main party island as it's pretty awful."

What's wrong with it?

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Posted by mooball on 4/8/2015 at 18:19 TF writer

Bad food, high ratio of foreigners to locals, attracts a certain type of crowd that I'm not into. Others might be, but I'm not. Especially since you can jump to the island next door and avoid all the bad parts of Don Det.

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Posted by MADMAC on 4/8/2015 at 23:23

I'm not either. But I wouldn't call it pretty awful. Like KSR and FMP, it has a place. I always find it strange how people coming here want to stay at KSR, which is really a freak show. But some people are into it. So I'm not sure I'd call it awful. There needs to be places like this, and maybe the OP is into those scenes... Just sayin'.

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Posted by mooball on 5/8/2015 at 00:15 TF writer

Yep, agree with you there. Definitely does have to be places like this and many people do enjoy them.

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Posted by Gogomobile on 6/8/2015 at 02:33

What does Laos offer that Thailand doesnt have? It seemed a bit slow and uninteresting to me. What is the wow factor?

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Posted by MADMAC on 6/8/2015 at 03:11

"What does Laos offer that Thailand doesnt have? It seemed a bit slow and uninteresting to me. What is the wow factor?"

You answered your own question. Laos is slow. It's also poor. A lot of backpackers are looking for "street cred" or a sense of adventure. You will get neither chillin' on a beach in Phuket or Krabi. Laos gives a sense of remoteness and contrast that plays well with a certain group of tourists. Also, while it does have the grungy backpacker tourist, it doesn't have the old sex travelers and high end tourists that backpackers like to avoid.

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Posted by mooball on 6/8/2015 at 03:20 TF writer

I think Laos offers a completely different experience although it is changing rapidly as it develops. Mainly things like the river transport now reverting to roads and the roads themselves becoming paved. But there is still a sense of adventure in many parts of Laos due to the lack of development.

It's definitely a slow place. But that's part of the appeal.

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Posted by Gogomobile on 6/8/2015 at 03:36

Different to Isan? Much the same except poorer and slower.

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Posted by MADMAC on 6/8/2015 at 06:25

"Different to Isan? Much the same except poorer and slower."

This is true to a degree. But I wouldn't overstate it too much.

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Posted by mooball on 6/8/2015 at 06:47 TF writer

I think the logic is flawed. It's just like saying Scotland is a colder version of England. And it's not. Or that Canada is just the same as USA, so no need to go there. Every country has its own reasons for going there. And if you skip southern Laos, fair enough. But I think you miss out on a great part of the country.

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Posted by MADMAC on 6/8/2015 at 13:17

Mooball - the Khorat plateua was part of "Laos" prior to 1823. The Issan dialect is not a dialect of Thai, it's a dialect of Low Land Laos. My wife, who is from Issan, speaks Laos without a problem. She can, and has, traveled to Laos and can speak with the people there just as easily as if she were home. We've talked about it quite a bit. Same with the food. The food of the Laos panhandle and the food of Issan are very similar. So there is validity to the observation that gogo makes here. The people of Issan are about as close to the people of Laos as the Bavarians are to the Austrians. And that's pretty damn close.

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Posted by exacto on 6/8/2015 at 13:46

I agree with mooball here. Sure, the language and cuisine of Isan is similar to Laos, but the two regions have developed very differently. I've always liked being in Thailand more than being in Laos, but mooball is right that if you skip southern Laos, you are missing something.

By the way, I get along quite well in Laos speaking Bangkok Thai. As for the wow factor? Beer Lao is worth the trip. Cheers.

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Posted by MADMAC on 6/8/2015 at 20:47

"By the way, I get along quite well in Laos speaking Bangkok Thai."

That's more true now than ever - TV and music have definitely left their imprint on Laos.

But the core observation stands. The biggest difference between Issan and Laos is development. One is simply more developed than the other.

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Posted by exacto on 6/8/2015 at 22:54

I even get along in some parts of southern Laos speaking Ing-ga-rish. The Bangkok Thai thing is largely true in the Mekong towns north or south. It didn't work nearly as well in Phonsavanh.

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Posted by MADMAC on 7/8/2015 at 02:35

"It didn't work nearly as well in Phonsavanh."

That's a little surprising, given how popular Thai TV is in Laos.

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Posted by MADMAC on 7/8/2015 at 03:50

BTW there is a very good book written by Asgard Moellerup comparing Thai, Issan and Low Land Laos. Very interesting making all the comparisons.

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