The South of Laos

CHAMPASAK

Global Mark : 13.84

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 

Cost

AVER.
 5 4 1 4 2 2 4 2 4 12.44

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
22 95% (21)  68% (15) 91% (20) 10 to 20 15.23


Description : A tiny quiet place by the Mekong, home of the old charming ruins of Wat Phu 

Comments : A very relaxing stop on the way between Si Phan Don and Pakse. 

What to do ? In central Champasak, see two former Royal Residences and an unfinished (ugly) Palace / Bike the countryside toward Wat Phu / Along the way, greet the very hospitable locals & smile back at the kids / Walk your way up the old temple & enjoy the panorama / Bike the road next to the Catholic Church toward small villages / Take a bath with local kids in the canals / If time, visit villages in Don Daeng, the opposite island with a long long sandy beach / 

What you may not like ? The rubbish at the temple as the area is popular with local people / The small flies during the day & mosquitoes during the night / The noise from the few vehicles / 

How long ? One or two days. More to rest.

Where to stay ? All the guesthouses are near the Fountain circle, about 3km from Ban Phabin (K2000 by tuk-tuk) 

  • Dok Champa GH, on the corner of the fountain / Restaurant with original menu / Rooms in big bungalows B75 / Speak French
  • Mr. Seng GH, on the main (small) road, south of the fountain / Basic rooms B50 / Restaurant by the river / Go there for the cheapest place for Dbl
  • Kham Phouy GH, opposite the above, on the right / Rooms B50(1), B75(2 or 3) or B100(4) / Bungalows w. shower B100 / Go there for the clean & nice big rooms (one of them with balcony) or the cozy bungalows.
  • Suchittra GH, a bit further by the river / Dorm (5) B25, expensive rooms without shower B125 / Go there for the cheapest bed in town in a big room and the very relaxing sitting area by the river. 
  • Sala Wat Phou, on the north of the Fountain / The luxury place of Champasak with AC rooms starting at $17 or $25 w. HW shower / A bit cheaper in LS but still expensive as not so charming.


Where to eat ? The best value for money was offered by Dok Champa GH's Restaurant. On the way to Ban Phabin, opposite the second temple, about 5mn by bike, a small place offer (around lunch time only) great banana rice "pancakes" heated in banana leaves for K500. Add some sweetened milk for a great dessert. 

Bikes ? At the guesthouses for K5000 per day. 

Visit Wat Phu Champasak ? This is the only cultural reason to come here. It lies 8km away, about 45mn on a slow bike. Official opening hours are from 8:30 to 16:30 but they seem to be quite flexible with those (I entered at 8 but had met two people coming back from it on the way). A few people are disappointed by what they find. Angkor Wat, this is not and the structure is in pretty bad condition. Also, from the gate distance, it does not look really nice as most of the structure is hidden in the back. But a closer look will reveal the charm of those old stones (a few well decorated) in their great peaceful setting. Entrance fee is K5000. 
Nearby are the ruins of associated Nang Sida Temple and Tao Tao Temple. 

 << Discover nice ruins


Festival ? There are plenty of festivals or "Boun" in the area but the most important is the Wat Phu Festival, on the full moon of the third lunar month (usually in early February for 3 days). Festivities include elephant races, water buffalo & cock fighting, music and dances. 

Backpacker's Tips : Stefan Westerheide, Germany (Jan 05)
From Pakse, day trip with motorbike to Wat Phu can easily be done (1.5 h per way). Champasak is a nice place for a riverside lunch.  3 $ entrance fee, but worth it for the great views from top though no must see if you go to Angkor.

Backpacker's Tips : Amtrak Amtrakker, Australia (April 03)  
  Bus from Pakse to Champasak was waiting (5k KIP), and only took an hour (crossing included of Mekong) to get to Champasak. Stayed at friendly Koumsang? GH where the bus stops on the western side of the street. Clean and quiet and good value for 30k KIP. They also rent bikes for 10k KIP per day to visit Wat Phu - a 40 minute bike ride down the main drag and turn off for a further 5 minute cycle to the entrance.
Entrance to Wat Phu site and excellent museum costs 5.5k KIP - also worth buying a brochure at the ticket office (in English and French) for 5k KIP. Great views from the sanctuary and had the place to myself at sunset - the site closes at 4.30p.m. supposedly but gates were still open at 6.30p.m. when I left.
Plenty of buses/songthaews pass through Champasak from 6 to 8 and took an hour to return to main market in Champasak (8k KIP). Easy to then catch a songthaew to Chong Mek border point (8k KIP 1 hour) and spend your last remaining KIP (couldn't see any banks on either side of the border, so try with the silk sellers). Easy crossing point and sign indicated Laos immigration open from 8.30a.m. to 4.30p.m. every day (although it ominously listed Saturday and Sunday as "overtime").
Didn't realize how much I liked Laos until I got back to Thailand - easy to travel through, 20USD a day was more than enough for the fairly rushed trip and excursions, and the people really friendly and laid back. 

Backpacker's Tips : Peter Christiaen, Belgium (March 02)
 
Interesting colonial town. / Bike to Wat Phu (5000 Kip) / Wat Phu : 5000 Kip; nice setting, but the Khmer temples are nothing compared with Angkor Wat in Cambodia / Ark of Noah-boat to Pakse : 4 hours (1 hour before arriving they had to unload the boat just before Pakse : 20 pigs, 10 buffaloes and some cows were downstairs; as animals get priority in Laos, I had to sit on the roof)


Leaving Champasak ?

To Pakse, a few boat should leave Champasak between 8 and 11 am (K5000, 2 hours). If arriving late from Wat Phu visit, the boat coming from Don Khong should reach Ban Phabin at around 1pm (often delayed)

It is possible to take a bus to Pakse directly from Champasak at around 7am for K5000. But as it is coming from another village, it is usually full when it arrives and should take a long time to cross the river so you might wish to take one from Ban Muang instead (a few between 6 & 7am, K3000). After that time, you may have to catch a crowded bus from road 13, 4km from Ban Muang (see Pakse bus schedules to Si Phan Don), which is not at all convenient. 

To Don Khong (Si Phan Don), the boat from Pakse should reach Ban Phabin at around 9am. It should take around 8 hours and cost K15000. You could also go to Route 13 for a bus coming from Pakse but expect them to be quite crowded (K10000, 2.5 hours, a few until early afternoon)

Backpacker's Tips : Hans & Greet, Belgium (Nov 02)
Boat Champasak - Don Khong (Khong island) : Dep. At +/- 9 hour from boat landing in Champasak, 20.000 Kip / person. Boatman will try 35.000 Kip ! Boat trip takes +/- 4 hours. 

The trip to Pakse : SSSS / everywhere / B25 / 2 hrs / Boat
The boat showed up with a short delay at 8:15. It was quite full so the men headed straight to the roof, definitively the best seat in the house. The scenery was as fine as the other day I suppose as it did not take me long to fall asleep...

See also the trip from Don Det