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Pakse
 
Pakse

Champasak Province lies in the southwestern part of Laos, which once had been part of the Cambodian Angkor Empire before the French arrived. It has the Mekong River as one of its transportation arteries and encompasses the vast lush, fertile pieces of land that encourage the rice cultivation - it is the largest rice cultivator of this aged-old country. Within its proximity, there are still various Mon-Khmer ethnic groups including the Laven. What can be seen here are rustic thatch huts, local agricultural practices, the century-long traditions and the still-primal way of life.

Officially, Pakse is the capital city of Champasak province and the largest city in southern Laos. It is located on the confluence of the Mekong and Se Don Rivers. The city is well known with its hand-woven silks and cotton. The textiles are at bargain prices and can be found at the bustling outdoor market along the river. It is the market town of around 60,000 people and the departure point to many attractions all around.

The city itself is not extremely attractive in terms of a tourist site, yet it is well known as the bustling market town of around 60,000 people and the departure point to many attractions all around. At the market, apart from local specialties such as tea, coffee, fruits and vegetables, one can easily find colorful hill-tribe clothes and textiles and jewelry. A city tour can be done within a day; recommended places are Champasak Provincial Museum, where some precious hill-tribes costumes and ornaments are kept; Wat Phat Baht; Champasak Palace Hotel, which was originally built by Prince Boun Oum na Champasak who was the heir of the Champasak kingdom; and Chinese Society House that features the colonial architecture. Tuk-tuks, motorized tricycle, are the most convenient way to travel around the town.

The most attractive site is Si Pan Don or the Four Thousands Islands where thousands of isles and sandbars rise from the Mekhong River this is the widest part of the rivers breadth, expanding about 14 kilometers or nine miles. The islands can be seen from January to March and will be submerged during the monsoon period, from May to November.

Don Khong is the largest island in southern Laos where permanent residents of farmers and fishermen are approximately of 55,000. The most spectacular natural wonder is Khon Phapaeng, the biggest waterfall in Southeast Asia that is naturally made out of Mekhong River. The waterfall can be reached in less than two hours from Pakse City. Nearby is Don Khone of which the sight of Irrawaddy freshwater dolphin is visible during the dry season. It is also on this island where the Mekong Dolphin Conservation Center is located.

If you keep going for about 46 kilometers south of Pakse, you will reach Wat Phou, which is situated about 1,207 meters or 750 miles above the sea. Believed to be built in the 6th century as a tribute to Hindu god Shiva.

This Hindu temple is believed to be the blueprint of Angkor Wat and other temples in Cambodia UNESCO has recently accredited the place as World Heritage Site after Luang Prabang City. The religious complex consists of 3 main sandstone buildings; one is on the hilltop and the other temples are on the foothill. On the upper level in the main sanctuary, one can see the linga or a Shiva phallus bathing in water running from the spring behind the complex. You can walk up the hill to the upper platform for a wonderful view of the Mekong plain.

Across the Mekhong River near Wat Phu is another Khmer religious monument called Wat Oum Muong. The temple is located on Tomo River and believed to be the construction ground where the sandstones and laterite were carved and shipped to Wat Phu through the small river. The place is off the beaten track and protected by the wood.


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