The ride from Phonsavan to Paske was insanely long. Estimated to be 15 hours, it ended up taking 19 hours to get there. The ride was less exhausting than we imagined, however. We had a good number of stops for noodle soup, and both of us had good books to read. Luckily no chickens were loaded on to the bus, a common thing on local Lao buses, but the driver was in charge of loading a motorbike on the roof and taking it with us.
As we arrived in Pakse we expected lots of tuk tuks to be hassling us for expensive rides into town. Instead, we found ourselves in an empty busstation with only two people, a dirty man with a mohawk and a man with a Russian assult rifle on his back. They told us (in a non threatening way) the only place to sleep was the adjacent hotel and that no tuk-tuks ran at this hour. We were stuck, so we decided to listen to the man with the gun.
The next morning we were able to take a tuk-tuk into town, and we found a much cheaper hostel. We also found our new favorite restaurant, a place called Daolin. For a fair price, we were eating real bacon for the first time in 3 months.
The first day was spent wandering the city. We walked to monuments, temples, markets, book stores, museums and food stands. Wikitravel teased us with promises of cheap burgers and ice cream, but it was a sham. That night we met up with a few new friends, played games, and drank beer. No one told us all the hostels lock up at 11, so when we got back home at 12, we thought we were sleeping outside. Luckily we were “those people”, and a sleepy, grumpy, hotel owner opened the door for us. “Do you know what time we close?” he growled. “I do now?”
Pakse is apparently the second biggest city in Laos, although it doesn't feel like it. The city isn't crowded and the traffic is almost non-existent. There isn't much tourism there, and we found that this was part of the charm.
We made an effort to take more photos of the locals while we're we here.
The second day, we got on the road and visited Wat Phu, a gorgeous temple near the town of Champasak. This ancient temple was originally built before 1000CE as a Hindu temple, but over the years it blended with Buddhism, and about 500 years ago, it became a primarily Buddhist temple with Hindu influence. We found the temple, besides beautiful and impressive, interesting. The blend of Hinduism and Buddhism is very unique, especially from a westernern religious perspective.
That night we finished some blog posts and enjoyed more food as temporary regulars at Daolin.
Finally, off to Don Khong for our first volenteer opportunity. Wish us luck.
Thanks for reading,
Grant and Danielle