The Archaeological And Natural Wonders Of Pakse
Unlike some of the more well-known Southeastern Asian countries, Laos is one that isn’t on most people’s travel radar. Due to the lack of development in this country, tourists deem this destination as undesirable, but I think it is the opposite; because this country is still rough around the corners, there are better opportunities for breathtaking and out of the box experiences.
Spending a day in Pakse
There are many places to visit in and around Pakse; the problem rather lies in narrowing your options. Talk to a local and you will instantly be sat down and your trip be mapped out for you. From Wat Phu, the golden Buddha and hidden waterfalls to the Bolaven Plateau and Si Phan Don, there are so many things to do, and if your time is limited, it is hard to choose between these breathtaking places.
But no matter whom you talk to, Wat Phu always comes up in touristic conversations. Spend half a day trip immersing yourself in the history of the Khmer Empire and the temple that held great importance dating back to the 10th century. After this, venture to the waterfalls east of Pakse, take in the scenery and enjoy the rural nature.
Useful Information: If you don’t want to chance your trip on the back of a motorcycle trying to find each place, book a tour guide well in advance.
Start your tour to Wat Phu early so you have enough time to travel from Pakse to these ruins that lay to the south. Your tour guide will point you to the visitor center to buy the ticket to this UNESCO heritage site.
Useful Information: If you find yourself in need of the bathroom or food, then look around the Visitor Center. Along side the boardwalk, there are small street-like vendors that sell delicious Laotian food. While they aren’t restaurants, the food has the taste of authenticity. Another thing to note is that there is also a restroom just before you continue to follow the boardwalk to the visitor center. Three hours can easily be spent at these temples, so it’s best you go before entering.
From the visitor center to the ruined temple, a wide baray opens in front of you. Wat Phu is the backdrop to this body of water, and as you approach the start of the ruins, a wide plain lined with stone pillars welcome you to the two palaces, the temple, a stone staircase up into the mountain and a small sanctuary at the top.
The grandeur of the ancient ruins makes the trek to this site in the muggy weather all worth the while. Two grand buildings, the north palace and the south palace, stand parallel to each other and mirror one another. Explore around the inner working of the buildings with your guide, to find the preservation, complexity, and detail in architecture breathtaking. From the three dongs of the Hindu bell inside the small shrine to the various monks garbed in red and yellow robes, the temple gives a spiritual vibe.
After bypassing cattle and climbing the crumbling, narrow steps that take you up the mountain, the view from the top is awe-inspiring; nestled in nature and overlooking the horizon.
Useful Information: The locals may not have the knowledge of the ancient history when asked, and hence it makes sense to engage a local guide to tell you all about this site. Also, if you venture back down to the visitor center, backtracking to where you started, you will find a museum housing old sculptures and ancient writings dating back to the time of the Khmer empire that well explain the history and detailing of Wat Phu’s importance.
Venture east 40 km of Pakse and while it may seem like the dusty red road is endless, the lands that stretch to either side of the road holds lush green forests and hidden waterfalls. Tad Fane, Tad Yuang, Tad E-Tu, Tad Pasuam, and Tad Champi are all gems waiting to be discovered in southern Laos. While the mentioned falls are the more popular ones, your tour guide will point out more signs stating various turn-offs to waterfalls as you ride down Route 16 (the road to get to these falls)
Tad Yuang may not be the tallest nor swimmer-friendly waterfall out of the mentioned list, but these falls gorgeously flow down the cliff into a pool below. Surrounded by the vibrant colors of the jungle, these falls are definitely a sight for sore eyes. On top of the waterfall there is a river that etches its way across the land. The landscape and the view of the jungle overlooking the waterfall are stunning. If you follow the river upstream toward the small bridge and hut in the distance, you will find yourself surrounded by a beautiful jungle, perfect for a quaint picnic or a nice dip in the water with the locals. These falls are great to view in the afternoon, when the sun is the strongest. No need to hike or walk long distance; just simply cool off with the mist from the falls, or in the clean stream.
Useful Information: While US dollars are not an accepted currency in Laos, Thai baht and Lao kip are frequently used. Be warned, if using Thai baht, smaller restaurants and shops in more rural areas may not accept the currency – Lao kip would be the safest option in such cases.
As for tours, their prices may range from 300,000 kip to 800,000 kip (equivalent to $35-$100), which are very reasonable for the distance covered and the sights that will be seen. A trip from Pakse down to Wat Phu, Bolaven Pleatu, Si Phan Don and into Cambodia, for instance, would be one that would range to 800,000 kip, while going down to Wat Phu and to the waterfalls would be around 300,000 kip. (all prices as of April 2017)
Contributed By : Whitney BolibolTourHQ Experiences
This itinerary is contributed by Whitney, an experienced traveler. If you request this tour, different guides will give you their versions of this itinerary. Be sure to confirm with them on what's included before booking.