As we researched Pakse, more than anything, I wanted to hop onto a motorbike and do the famed Pakse loop. Ultimately, I decided that after my first attempt I should continue to leave the driving to Mandy, the wheel woman.
She drives, I kill the bugs. Not everyone is cut out to be what they want to be, in fact most everyone isn’t. Mostly people strive for what they want to be, only to find their hidden strengths in pursuit of dreams. If your lucky you will find someone that complements your weaknesses, and you in turn.
As mentioned, Pakse is best visited by motorbike in the famous Pakse loop. Taking 3 days or so you can travel to all the neighboring waterfalls and stop in on the villages as you ride through. We took a day trip approach, which worked out well for us. We took two different day trips out of Pakse, each its own adventure. Both day trips were roughly 45 minute to 1 hour drive outside of Pakse for a total drive time of around 2 hours. We were able to see a lot of waterfalls and the famous Vat Phou.
Vat Phou was first on our list as we prepared for eventually seeing the grand daddy of all ancient temples, Angkor Wat in Cambodia. To our pleasant surprise we found Vat Phou to be even more fun in some ways than our eventual trip to Angkor Wat. There was a fraction of the tourists, some amazing ancient architecture, and an amazing view.
We didn’t get there until the heat of the day, a couple of hours before sunset. The weather was scorching hot and we were grateful for quiet breezes that cooled your skin after a hearty climb up the steep stairs of Vat Phou. We explored the top of the mountain, seeing Elephant Rock, and the main temple. The architecture on the temple is a mash up of Hindu and Buddhist influences as both religions have used this site over the centuries. If there were not so many fires which threw up a haze over the horizon we know the view would have been spectacular. Flat plains extend as far as the eye can see peppered with bits of forest and jungle along the way.
On our way back from Vat Phou we learned an important motorbike lesson, don’t drive at night in the country without a visor. As we headed back into the city we were cruising along, loving life. Then out of nowhere we started getting peppered with what felt like paint balls. They were in fact, giant bugs that literally left bruises on us they were so big. We learned to take it down to around 40 km per hour instead of 60 km per hour. Once you hit 60 those bug bullets were flying!
When we came back to our hotel, the bugs didn’t stop there. A cockroach wanted to see how we were doing after our long ride. We went to our hosts and they armed us with 2 almost empty cans of roach killer. I stood on a chair and fired the first volley. Mandy emptied her can as the roach scurried away, “Matt, I’m out!”, she screamed. I jump from the chair, empty my can, then swing a shoe and….splat. Victory. Needless to say that was a night we broke out our travel sheets for sleeping. Sealed up and dreaming of bug bullets and roaches.
Our next day trip was out to see a set of waterfalls which were simply amazing. The first waterfall, Tad Yeung, was not one you could get close to without an extensive hike, but you could view it from the opposing cliff side. Had we known we would have brought some extra cash because there was a zip-line that went across the canyon which looked SUPER fun.
The next waterfall, Tad Yuang, allows you to get a lot more up close and personal. We headed straight down to the pool the falls drops into, set up shop, and jumped in. The water was cold, refreshing, and just what the doctor ordered for our bones. We floated for a bit, sitting under the falls letting the water give us a Lao massage. Swimming and being in water is something Mandy and I adore. We hadn’t had any water time since the beaches of Vietnam, so we were MORE than ready for it! After we had our fill, we decided we better start heading back to avoid the bug bullets.
Motorbike adventures are truly fun no matter which way you slice it, day trips or the loop, and Pakse is a great home base to explore some of the stunning natural beauty and ancient temples of southern Laos. We could honestly recommend our day trip strategy as an alternative if anyone is uncomfortable on a bike.