Pakse, Laos

Trip Start Dec 25, 2008
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Trip End Dec 25, 2009


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Flag of Lao Peoples Dem Rep  ,
Monday, April 20, 2009

Flew from Vientiene to Paksi. Well worth it as I couldn't see doing the distance by bus!!!!  (Flight was approx $130 US- did not check websites, just booked through Laos Airline) I quite enjoyed Paksi and the side trips. First of all everyone that has a budget to spend around 200,000 kip (approx 23-25 US$) for a room should stay at the Pakse Hotel & Restaurant (e-mail: info@paksehotel.com)   This is the best hotel and service I have had in Laos at that price range. The staff is incredibly friendly and helpful. This is so far throughout Cambodia, Vietnam and Laos the only hotel  with clean bedsheets on arrival and the room was cleaned everyday!!!  Breakfast is also included in the price.  (Most rooms I have stayed in are in the 15$ to 30$ price range which I believe Lonely Planet sets in the Low/Medium Price range but most did not compare to this one). Lower priced rooms will be booked in high season so you will need to book ahead. I also stayed one night at the Sang Aroun Hotel as Pakse Hotel was booked.  This hotel was the same price with Laos breakfast included but the staff cannot speak english and seemed to be quite arrogant. (This seems to be a Laos business class hotel! tel 031-252111 e-mail sangarounhotel@hotmail.com  No 13 South Road, Pakse)  Also a couple of great coffee places are Delta coffee (a fair distance from Pakse Hotel) and the Sinouk Coffee shop (very close to Pakse Hotel). This place has the best "pain au raisin" and "pain au chocolat" in Asia (that I have tasted so far)  As well as the best coffee but you have to like strong coffee. Of course, the western price comes with it!!

First side trip was very interesting. I took local transport "sawngthaew"  (basically a small truck with a bench on each side filled with locals, produce, livestock and whatever else somebody wants to fit in!!! I was the only foreigner which made for ongoing staring and pointing . . . Of course it stopped numerous times to let people off and others on.  I finally arrived at my destination which is a small village beside the Mekong river.  Definitely an average Laos village with the usual activities -  children playing in the street,  women weaving and men smoking and drinking.  After walking around the village (Village name is Ban Saphai)  I negotiated a boat to the Don Kho island (I think I paid around 30,000 k which was way too much!! but made for a happy driver) which has just recently received electricity.  Saw a couple of monks smoking and relaxing at the temple.  Ran into a few cows and dogs as well as a few children who came out to greet me and we exchanged a few words and had fun trying to learn Laos language. Women were happy to show me how to weave but stopped as soon as they saw I was not interested in buying.  Spent some time there then returned to Ban Saphai to find a ride back to Paksi.  As I was standing waiting for the regular transport a Sawngthaew filled with happy people went buy and yelled out Paksi but continued.  A few minutes later it returned with only the driver and his daughter. He stopped and asked if I wanted a ride back to Paksi and didn't want to charge anything.  I thought it was a scam so negotiated a price then got in.  It turns out that this fellow had borrowed the truck from a friend to bring his family back to the village and was going back to Paksi so had just offered to give me a lift.  This is truely the Laos spirit that I found throughout this country. Again the Laos spirit came up a couple of days later when I booked a tour at an agency for a day to the Bolaven Plateau.  It happens that two different tour agents had clients at the Pakse hotel. The
guide from Pakse Travel Co. asks if I  am going to the Bolaven Plateau so off I go with him and just realized when I returned and was dropped off at his company's office that there had probably been a mistake but was not sure as it often happens that different companies group their clients together so that they have the numbers to make the trip profitable for all.  Later, when I returned to the hotel the front desk tells me that the tour office has been calling and they need to talk to me.  Turns out that the tour I was on was cheaper than the one I had booked and the lady at Lanexang Travel  was calling me to reimburse me the difference. Of course I booked my next bus trip with that company!!!! So a case of honesty definitely paying off. Also the trip to the Bolaven Plateau was defnitely worth it. I think in this case the photos are worth a thousand words. So much poverty in the villages, so many children smoking (tobacco and other) so many illness and no money for medicine or health care. Also part of this tour were visits to some great waterfalls.  Yes, the Bolaven Plateau is definitely worth a visit and if I was going to do it again I would probably work on public transport and stay a few days travelling in the Bolaven Plateau. There were really great landscapes.
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