Nothing much in Pakse…. except ATMs!!

So we left our last post speeding away from Don Khon (4000 Islands) in a little wooden boat towards Nakasang, where we were to catch a minibus to Pakse. We hopped on a (quite clean) 8-seater, which actually only had 8 people sitting in it!

It was quite an uneventful, if slightly cramped journey, which we were more than happy with. It only took about 4 hours and the roads were so much better than we’d expected. We’d gotten our bus tickets from the internet cafe on Don Khon for 45,000 Kip, which is the same price as the bus companies charge, plus we blagged a free hour of internet usage too! Some places were charging 50,000 or 60,000, which is really silly considering they are surrounded by companies charging much less!

Before we left for Pakse we did some research into which guesthouse we wanted to stay in and it just so happened that the minibus stopped right outside that exact one! Everybody else on the minibus also wanted to stay there so I jumped off quick while Rich got our bags and managed to get the last private room.

On the drive into Pakse city centre we could tell that there wasn’t much going on – there was hardly any traffic which was strange for a South East Asian city and not much in the way of ‘tourist’ infrastructure. Something we did notice on the drive in however were four items that have been the subject of much internet travel forum debate – ATMs! Road number 13, which is the main road into the city, past the South Bus Station is home to four ATMs, all accepting international cards. The nearest one to the bus station is the STB bank, which also has a money exchange office attached to it, followed by a BCEL ATM in a little booth, closely followed by two ANZ cash machines next to each other.

Thousands of tourists seem to be under the impression that there are no ATM’s in Laos south of Vientiane, well, news flash – there are! We’ve seen them with our own eyes. ANZ charge 40,000 kip for you to take your money out but BCEL only charges 20,000, so that’s the one we’d recommend using.

Once we’d checked in to our guesthouse we went to have some lunch / dinner in a street cafe down the road. It was surprisingly clean considering the kitchen and tables were literally on the street and the food was absolutely amazing! Cheap too – we got two massive portions of rice / noodles and chicken for 12,000 kip each (around a quid) and large bottles of Beer Lao for just 8000 kip. We knew where we’d be eating for the next couple of days!!

We also spied two more ATMs around the corner from our guesthouse on the main road through town.

Once we’d eaten we went to an internet cafe – there are loads of these in Pakse – to decide on our next move. We want to do some jungle trekking while we’re here but can’t decide whether or not to do it in the north, south or centre of Laos. We found the address for a company called Green Discovery, who specialise in off the beaten track adventures and tours, and went round there to see what they suggested. They had loads of brochures there so we spent ages reading up on our options and decided to go for ‘up north’ which is known for its more mountainous scenery.

We then hopped on a tuk tuk to the bus station to ask about prices for the sleeper bus to Vientiane – the next stop on our itinerary. They charge 150,000 kip each for a double sleeper ticket (which is fine for us as we’re a couple, but not so great if you’re a single traveller as you’ll end up bunking up with someone random!) and 190,000 for a single sleeper ticket (which means you get a double bed to yourself). This is the same price as our hotel was charging so we thought we might as well book with them, since they offer a free transfer to the station. The company our hotel uses is Kingkham Transportation Company (021-550159 / 020-6196996).

The next day, we decided to take a ‘tour’ of the city by foot and see if we could find anything interesting to do here while we waited for our 8pm bus to Vientiane. We walked towards the Sedone river which isn’t the most asthetically pleasing river and what did we come across on the road parallell to it? Two more ATMs! Both of these were BCEL and were outside the BCEL bank and money exchange. We went in to change the 50$ we still had left from Cambodia and got 401,000 kip in return – no commission charges whatsoever – they give you the same rates as xe.com.

We walked around Pakse for quite a while and came to the conclusion that its city status is a bit of an exaggeration! It took only a couple of hours to cover most of it and it is severely lacking in the noise, traffic and smog  of other cities. This is a great plus of course and makes Pakse a very easy place to wander round with no hassle.

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We encountered the cutest bunch of kids near a school who couldn’t stop waving, giggling and calling out ‘Sabaide’ to us as we walked past and everyone else we encountered were so friendly. Laos is fast becoming our favourite place with the nicest people you’re likely to ever meet!

We came across another bus station on our walk – right beside the Sedone River – where you can get buses to Vientiane. A company called King of Bus operates out of there and again, the sleeper price is 150,000 kip. Tourists are usually told that we have to go to the North Bus Station to get the bus to the north of Laos, but as we’ve found out, you can actually get the bus from any station in Pakse!

Just before sunset, we walked around to the south of the city, where the Mekong River merges with the Sedone and sat in a locals bar. This area is very popular with the local kids who all hang out with their motorbikes chatting up the girls – we didn’t spot a single tourist which was great! We had a drink while watching the boats go by and thought that we really quite liked Pakse, despite there not really being anything to do – it’s a great place to recharge your batteries before setting off again.

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If you did want to stick around this area longer, it’s also a great base to explore the Bolaven Plateau and nearby waterfalls – there a loads of walking trips you can do on the outskirts of the city as well as Kayaking and cycling – but we wanted to save the adventure for the northern jungle!

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2 Comments

  1. October 30, 13:30 #1 Aisleen Author

    oooh, actually I could murder a nice piece of haddock right now! 🙂

  2. October 27, 20:10 #2 margaret D.

    i cant see u setteling for fish and chips after the meals you have been having!!!! May you continue to enjoy!!!1


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