This sleepy town serves as both a border crossing town and as a base for intrepidous adventurers set to explore the Bolaven Plateau. More details on Bolaven Plateau below.
- Alisa Guesthouse: Clean, spacious and well-located on the main Pakse drag. Recommended in Lonely Planet and for once, LP got it right.
- Sinouk Coffee: A higher-end cafe serving as an ambassador to its namesake coffee resort. An extensive menu, French patesserie-style interior and the best WiFi in town makes it worth a morning or lazy afternoon.
- Daolin Restaurant Cafe: This is #1 ON TripAdvisor (as of Aug 2016) and the main reason we visited. Top notch friendly service and delicious food kept us going back several days in a row.
Tired of the tourist overload of Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng and ready to explore a multitude of waterfalls, ethnic villages, a cooler climate, coffee plantations via 2 wheels & a motor? With elevation ranging from 1000 to 1350 meters above sea level, the heat notably subsides once you get up to the latter and lays the foundation for a region covered in rivers and rich in fine coffee plantations. Rent a motorcycle and hit up the loop for a make-your-own adventure style trip off the beaten path.
- Renting a bike in Pakse: On the same block as Alisa Guesthouse are a number of bike shops but the one shop that is highly reputable and strongly recommended by us is Miss Noy. Assisting Ms. Noy is her Swiss-French husband who is not only fluent in several languages, but extremely helpful and trustworthy. Be there for the daily 6PM briefing of where and how to get around the Bolaven Plateau loop. When you rent through them, you get a new-condition bike, 24/7 English and Lao phone support, payment after you’re done your trip (meaning you can go as long as you want and just pay your total after), and the convenience of storing your bigger luggage in their office while you’re gone. They may be a fraction more expensive than next door but the benefits greatly outweigh the extra 5,000 KIP a day.
- Tad Champi: Short but with multiple raging streams and the unique feature of a wooden raft tethered by rope that you can pull yourself to and under the waterfall with. Very cool!
- Tad Fane: A massively tall dual stream waterfall. However, you are bound to view it from several hundred meters away, ans as a result, our least favourite. Some great hammocks to chill in from the viewpoint, though!
- Tad Itu (Etu): The smallest on the strip but beautifully secluded and surrounded by lush greenery and a scenic meadow. Very easy to miss from the highway, so look for the Etu Resort sign on the left when coming straight out of Pakse.
- Tad Yuang: One of our favourite waterfalls to date. Gorgeously tall, wide and beautiful in all the right ways. Multiple viewpoints or jump right in with swimming allowed around and under it.
Don Det – 4000 Islands
The misleadingly named 4000 Islands that round out the bottom of Laos along Cambodia’s northern border is home to the largest waterfall by volume in Southeast Asia, a beast that can’t be missed. The islands themselves are serving up to be the next Vang Vieng, with their affinity for water sports and easy access to drugs kicking off a flocking of young backpackers.
- Khone Phapheng: This beastly 1.3 km wide waterfall fiercely pumps out the most water of any waterfall in Southeast Asia. Though there is an officially built observation deck at a safe distance above it, many brave visitors, including us bravely (or foolishly) choose to creep up to the edge of the waterfall via a rocky path that stretches into the side of the river. It’s almost frightening how powerful it is up close, so much so that the colonial French failed to navigate upriver past it despite years of trying with various powerful steam ships.
- Don Det & Don Khon: This is the “new” Vang Vieng that was infamous in the days of ole. Cheap drinks, easily accessible recreational drugs, hammocks everywhere and a chilled out island vibe attracts tons of young travelers here. Plenty of chances to sign up for all day kayaking trips, freshwater dolphin watching, hiking and waterfall exploring. For history buffs, take a ride around the island to find the several history plaques and even an old abandoned steam engine chronicling the escapades of the colonial French from centuries ago. There are countless accommodations available ranging from very rustic bungalows to the pricier but pretty nice “Baba Guesthouse,” available with online or in-person reservations.