The southern hub

The provincial capital of Champasak, Pakse is the major transport and commercial hub for southern Laos. For travellers coming from Cambodia, it’s often their first introduction to a big Lao city, and unfortunately first impressions are not the city’s strong suit.

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The city was founded as an administrative outpost by the French in 1905, and along with them came Chinese traders and Vietnamese workers. Only a few crumbling remnants of French colonial, Vietnamese and Chinese architecture can be found. You’ll see more in Savannakhet, and Pakse can never measure up to historic splendour of Luang Prabang. Granted, it is one of last places in the country you can ride a samlo, the three wheel motorbike taxi with side seat, but aside from that, Pakse just isn’t sentimental or nostalgic. It’s looking to a future fuelled by foreign business interests and tourism plays second fiddle.

Sleepy Wat Luang, : Cindy Fan.
Sleepy Wat Luang, Photo: Cindy Fan

The city is at the axis of roads to Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and the capital Vientiane and most travellers use Pakse as a transit point and little else. It’s a chicken-versus-egg scenario. Perhaps travellers would stay longer if the tourism infrastructure improved and there were better hotels. For now, backpackers have a sprinkling of budget accommodation options and little reason to linger. Pakse’s forte is what lies outside of it and the city is the place to recharge on creature comforts before jumping off to some of southern Laos’ most incredible sights and ... Travelfish members only (Full text is around 1,300 words.)

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