Champasak, Laos, is the type of place where a tourist can take a vacation from traveling.
Even though there is a constant flow of electricity that powers Champasak, the entire life of the town is dictated by the sun (as it should be); People wake up at sunrise and shut down when the sun light disappears for the night.
Searching for nightlife? Think again.
Champasak is located on the banks of the Mekong River, a section where the sheer wideness of the river sparks enough emotion to gasp.
The main reason why the select few visitors choose to get off that main Southeast Asian tourist trail trap and stop in Champasak is because of the UNESCO World Heritage temple complex of Wat Phou, located just 10 km away from the city.
As evening rolls in, bringing forth a comfortable breeze of fresh air, there’s no better activity than taking an easy stroll through town. The sunset degree of light reveals an almost new dimension of the already admirable French colonial buildings.
What to do in Champasak
The single handed draw that pulls a few tourists to Champasak is the UNESCO world heritage temple complex of Wat Phou.
The temple, which actually pre-dates those of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, is set against a remarkable natural mountain landscape and is structured in terraces up the hillside.
The stone carved posts, lintels, statues and the quiet environment are what make Wat Phou an amazing temple to visit. You can see more pictures and read all about my visit to Wat Phou right here.
The overall town of Champasak is very small, it can be fully explored by foot or even better by a leisure bicycle ride. There are a number of incredibly preserved French colonial buildings, a few gift shops, some modern temples, and a couple of restaurants.
The country of Laos was designed to be relaxing, and Champasak is no different. The wide expanse of the Mekong River makes a perfect setting for a river swim, or a great place just to relax on a patio, read a book and take it easy.
How to get to Champasak
Most travelers get to Champasak either from the city of Pakse, just 30 minutes away, or from across the border in Thailand.
- From Pakse: It’s easy to catch a songthaew (back of the truck public vehicle) from the main market in Pakse direct to Champasak. Songthaews leave from Pakse as soon as they are full, and cost 20,000 Kip ($2.49) per person.
- From the 4000 Islands: Don Khong, Don Det, and Don Khon all have tourist oriented travel agencies that can easily arrange transportation directly to Champasak, via boat and bus. The cost is usually 50,000 – 60,000 Kip ($6.22 – $7.46) each way.
- From Thailand (Ubon Ratchathani): The easiest way to get from Thailand to Champasak is to take the border bus from Ubon Ratchathani to Pakse and then take a songthaew from Pakse to Champasak.
I traveled to Campasak from the 4000 Islands of Laos area, and I paid 50,000 Kip for a ticket from Don Det Island to a location across the Mekong River from Champasak. I then had to pay a local boatman 10,000 Kip for a ride across the river to the town of Champasak.
Where to Stay in Champasak
One of the coolest budget places to stay in all of Champasak is Vongpaseud Guest House, located right in the city center with a splendid view of the Mekong River.
The owner is possibly the most jolly man in all of Laos, laughing after every sentence he speaks. The rooms are old but clean and cost 30,000 Kip ($3.73) for double room with a fan. The food is quite good and the prices are decent by Laos standards.
I don’t think there’s even a need to have an official address in Champasak, but here is their telephone number if needed: 031920038.
Vongpaseud GH also offers bicycle rentals for 10,000 Kip ($1.24) per day and motorcycle rental for 100,000 Kip per day. If you are up for biking to Wat Phou, it’s only about 10 km and takes around 30 minutes.
As tourism grows and the backpacker route through Laos develops, there’s no telling how many years Wat Phou and Champasak will remain serene and off the main backpacker checklist.
At the moment it’s the setting, the atmosphere and the fact that very few tourists visit the area that gives Champasak such a special feeling as an unspoiled travelers retreat.