Temples in Pakse
There are a variety of temples in and around Pakse that are well worth seeing.
Wat Luang is one of the largest temples in Pakse, and considered by many to be the most beautiful. The Buddhist Monk School occupies the grounds of this temple, and this is a good spot to watch a monk alms-giving ceremony.
Wat Phabad, the oldest temple in Pakse, is another of Pakse’s larger temples.
Wat Phou Salao, or the “Big Buddha,” is a recently-built temple complex sitting atop a hill. It is located on the other side of the river, across the Japanese bridge, and climbing up to Phou Salao will give you a fantastic view of Pakse and the surrounding scenery.
Wat Phu in Champasak
Although not directly located in Pakse, Wat Phu (also spelled Wat Phou) is one of the “must-see” spots for travellers in Pakse. Wat Phu is actually located in the town of Champasak, but is an easy day’s trip from Pakse.
Originally built as a Hindu temple during the Khmer Empire, Wat Phu is reminiscent of the Angkor complexes in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and travellers will see striking architectural similarities between the two places. Wat Phu, which is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is still in use today (although the religious focus of the site has shifted from Hinduism to Buddhism).
An entrance ticket to Wat Phu is LAK50,000, which includes access to an explanatory museum that is helpful in sharing the symbolism and history behind the art and architecture of the temple. To get to Wat Phu from Pakse, you will probably want to go with an organized tour, costs for which start at about LAK120,000.
Dao Heuang Market
If you’re not so interested in temples, stopping in at the Dao Heuang Market (also known as the 2km Market, as it is located about 2 kilometres south of town) is a great way to get a taste of local culture. The hustle and bustle of the markets in Southeast Asia provides a fascinating peek into a lifestyle that is quite a bit different than the Western world, and even if you’re not planning on purchasing any food or other items, just walking around and taking in the sights and smells is a favourite way for many travellers to spend their time.
Dao Heuang is one of the largest markets in Laos, so it’s one of the best spots for really soaking up some Lao culture.
Another market worth stopping at is the Champasak Shopping Center Market, smaller but more centrally located closer to the main tourist area in Pakse.
4,000 islands – Si Phan Don
Many people also use Pakse as a jumping-off point to get to the 4,000 islands (Si Phan Don in Lao), an archipelago of islands on the Mekong River. Some travellers choose to do this as a day trip, with guided tours that will take people to Don Dhet, Don Khon, and Khon Pha Pheng waterfall. Beware that the sleepy, chilled out atmosphere of Don Dhet is known to suck travellers in and keep them longer than they intended; the peaceful vibe of Don Dhet and other islands in Si Phan Don may mean that you’ll want to budget more time here than what a day trip from Pakse will allow. But if you just don’t have the time to linger long, then a day trip from Pakse may be enough to give you a glimpse of this lovely area in Laos.
Views of the Mekong River at sunset are lovely, but as of now, there are no riverside bars or restaurants to watch the sunset from. As the city develops, for better or for worse, its riverside presence will likely grow and a stroll along the Mekong may become one of the top things to do while visiting Pakse.