The province of Champassak is home to one of Asia's great, but least visited temples, Wat Phu. Pakse, the capital is situated at the confluence of the Se river and the Mekong (Pakse means 'mouth of the Se') and is a busy trading town. The province also houses much of the Bolaven Plateau, an area that is home to a number of ethnic minorities. To the south is Si Pan Don (four thousand islands), where the Mekong reaches up to 14km wide during the rainy season and the Khone Phapeng Falls.
Pakse has a number of comfortable places to stay and is a good base from which to explore the surrounding area. The town has one of the largest markets in the region. Within Pakse is the Champassak Museum where you can see relics from Wat Phu as well as from the Bolaven Plateau.
Champassak - Pakse - Getting There
Lao Aviation flies to Pakse from Vientiane
You can reach Pakse by boat from the north or the south, although these services change regularly. Buses run from Vientiane daily and the journey can take as long as 15 hours. This bus service also serves the towns of Tha Kek and Savannakhet.
There is an international check point at Ban Muang Kao on the Thai border with Chong Mek. You can get a Visa on arrival at this checkpoint. After entry into Laos, a short taxi ride to the new Bridge into Pakse. Coming from Thailand, the nearest airport, train station and bus terminus to Chong Mek is Ubon Ratchathani - about 1 hour by road from the border.
Wat Phu (mountain temple) is a site that dates back to the 5th century. The original temple was built by the Khmer Hindus at the top of a hill at the site of a fresh water spring. The peak of the hill is said to resemble a lignum or Shiva Phallus. The exact history of Wat Phu is unclear, but was certainly the site of a temple of the Khmer empire that eventually made Ankor Wat its capital. The temple is stunning, and very remote, with superb views of the Mekong valley. At the top of the temple site are a number of carved rocks, resembling a crocodile, a nag and an elephant. It is believed that these rocks were used for human sacrifice.
To get to the temple complex from Pakse, the most pleasant way is by chartering a boat down the Mekong. The journey to the town of Champassak takes about one and a half hours. From Champassak, a tuk tuk can be taken to the temple, about 8km away.