The red clay is pretty when its wet...
After a visa-crunch and 14 hour overnight bus ride through southern Laos, and a busdriver who blared Lao pop karaoke tapes at top volume, Pakse was a welcome site. Extensive Laotian travel is exhaustive, mentally and physically. You feel bones rattling in your body you didn't know you had, you wonder if chinese-water-torture could be much worse than this. You fantasize about pillows and ice cubes.
Dawn had just broken, and everything was dewy. The early morning air was cool and refreshing, the first specs of sunlight bouning off the red-tiled roofs of Pakse. Thomas & I had an early-morning, getting-off-that-stupid-bus beer with a Canadian artist. There are a handful of internet cafes and backpacker-friendly eateries, even some good Indian cuisine. The locals are shy but friendly, and life is noticeably slower than in Northern Laos. You can feel the kinks in your neck start to unwind a little bit as you sit by the side of the road, watching the schoolkids ambling by, smiling shyly at you. After a nap in grungy-hotel-from-Lonely-Planet, we were off again for the 4,000 Islands
Coming back through Pakse afterwards was a much... grittier... experience. Stef (enroute at the time) got an email from me warning "Welcome to the sand storm known as Pakse". The lovely red clay roads, when not sufficiently watered down, swell up. Operation "get out of pakse" was in full force, my resolve was unstoppable. "Cambodia, here i come" I muttered into the crook of my arm as I staggered through the red swirls, trying to cover my eyes. The Lao Aviation office was naturally on the other side of town. The town seemed to freeze in the dust, I thought of Pompeii. Although i could have just as easily shown up at the airport & been fine, as it turned out. The Pakse airport is a one-gate, one-desk, one-ticket-taker kind of deal. all 4 people working at the airport knew of my plans by the time I left. A french guy & I had a good chuckle at how we were the only two passengers for the day. I highly recommend Lao aviation from Pakse to Siem Reap - a full lunch was served on a 40 minute flight, plenty of comfortable room for a little plane, and sweet attendants.
... written in 2005 when I visited (check out my travelogue & photos