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  • Pakse

    Pakse (ປາກເຊ), the gateway to southern Laos, sits at the confluence of the Mekong and the Se Don river. The city retains the sort of Mekong River–town lethargy found in Savannakhet and Tha Khaek further north. Several colonial-era buildings remain, do look for the grandiose, Franco-Chinese-style Chinese Society building in the centre of town.

    This capital city of the province of Champasak is Southern Laos’ trade and transportation hub, connecting with Bangkok to the west, Da Nang to the east and Phnom Penh to the south. At first sight, Pakse seems to be simply a gateway to other places, but there is more to it than meets the eye.

    Once you are here, take some time and explore the hidden treasures of Pakse. If you wander around a little, you’ll soon discover old French Colonial Buildings, a Vietnamese quarter, Buddhist and Chinese temples and an old Catholic church, or you can sit and have a freshly brewed Bolaven Coffee or Lao tea while watching people and life go by.

    Why not rent a bicycle and follow some of the proposed routes in and around Pakse? Or simply take a tuk tuk up the hill to the big golden Buddha at “Wat Phou Salao” for a stunning view over the Mekong and the town. The light is particularly beautiful in the late afternoon hours, not only from the mountain, but also from one of the boat restaurants on the Mekong River or from a rooftop, where you are able to have dinner or just a drink as you watch the sun go down.

    For those who like the early morning hours, a visit to the bustling morning market (Daoheuang market), is recommended, and if you haven’t tried out the “Samlor”, a motorcycle with a side-car, then this could be the moment to go for a ride. For a quiet shopping experience, visit one of the handicraft shops in the centre of town. In the woods, about 7km out of town, is the newly opened Art Gallery with a small café offering relaxing views of the forest.

    Wat Luang
    Take the time to enjoy a visit to Vat Luang, the largest and most significant temple in Pakse. It sits prominently on the banks of the Sedone near the main bridge, with wonderful views across the river.

    The temple was built in 1935 and is a beautiful place to wander through. Admire the building walls ornately decorated with intricate murals and a golden Buddha. It is also home to a Sangha school (Buddhist monks’ school) with courses in English, business and cultural studies. They have a large library, and even open their doors to foreign volunteers. The head and representative of the Champasak Sangha community in Champasak also lives there.

    Some of the most notable features of this striking temple are the funerary shrines at the front, which contain the ashes of the Lao royal family and a former prime minister.

    Chinese Temple
    Just south of Vat Phra Bat, you’ll find the small but serene Chinese Temple. The two-storey building houses a rich collection of Chinese Buddhist artefacts, giving you a detailed history of the Chinese influence in Pakse and Southern Laos.

    The temple had been built Chinese-styled architecture, is a tranquil place that instills a curiously calming effect. Wander through its interesting rooms then enjoy the art and statues throughout the grounds. From water-spouting dragons to menacing lions and the familiar red and gold lanterns, you’ll feel as though you’ve been transported across the border to China without even realising it.

    The Chinese Vat SopSé – Temple
    If you wish to delve deeper into the Chinese influence in Pakse, you may like to explore the little known and secluded Vat SopSé. ‘Sopsé’ means the lips of Se River while ‘Pakse’ means the mouth of Se River.

    According to local legend, this Chinese temple is famous for the spirit that lives there, Pu SopSé, (Grandfather SopSé). He is the guardian of the area and is believed to make wishes come true. Some locals believe he is a personification of a naga.

    People go to the temple and ask for a favor; if it comes true, they thank the spirits with offerings such as fruits, money, roasted pork and cakes.

    The temple is very lively during Chinese and Vietnamese festivals such as Chinese New Year, Tet, and the Mid Autumn Festival, and is much revered by the local Chinese and Vietnamese communities.

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