Partly as a response to the slow buses, motorbikes have become a popular alternative, and are easily rented in the provincial capital of Pakse long-term. For those so inclined, this is recommended, as it will allow you to better explore the province without spending half your time sorting out departures, waiting in terminals, and languishing on a long, slow bus ride. Increasingly, group package tours offer to take care of some of these hassles for you, but nothing can beat stopping off at a road-side food stall in the middle of nowhere, or coursing down back roads along streams and canals through fields of rice against a scenic backdrop of mountains.
In our opinion this was a mistake -- admittedly, it doesn`t measure up to the low-key splendour of Luang Prabang, but nevertheless it has a definite charm, some beautiful wats, and two gorgeous rivers, great for enjoying some eats and drinks by the water side and watching the sun smoulder into the horizon.
But Pakse seems to be making a transition from transit point to staging area -- the Lao Government has put a lot of careful work into cultivating new, ecologically friendly and well-regulated tourist destinations that combine the adventure of exploring the unknown with the convenience of regular and reliable services. You can easily spend a week or so just making day trips and overnights from Pakse, and winding up right back in town to plan the next stage of your journey.
We see Pakse shaking off the reputation from paper guidebooks -- it`s a comfortable spot for hanging out, recharging your batteries, and picking up information, with an ever-improving guesthouse scene, some great food, and excellent local hospitality.
Best known for its spectacular Khmer ruins at Wat Phu and the stunning cluster of islands near the Cambodian border known as Si Phan Don (4,000 islands). Here you`ll also find elephant trekking in Ban Khiet Ngong, stunning waterfalls rimming the Bolaven Plateau, and you`ll get a glimpse into authentic, traditional Laotian life on the islands of Don Kho near Pakse and Don Deng near Champasak Town, making a tour of the region well worth the extra effort.
Travellers should be prepared to spend longer in this province than expected. Besides the excellent hospitality of the locals, there`s a growing list of worthwhile things to do. Another reason is the rather slow pace of public transportation. Though Champasak has generally good roads, as in much of Laos, the transport that runs along them does so at its own creaky pace, loaded to the roof with more goods and baggage than people, making frequent stops along routes that offer a small selection of daily departures.