Time for some TerryTreks bonus content. I had already sold my motorbike, and was on my way out of Laos. Laos is fantastic and beautiful and you should absolutely visit. But I did not enjoy my time there. I had a rough time, and had already traveled too much. It was time to stop (for now). I couldn’t wait to get out of the country.

But I decided to visit a tiny town called Champasak first. Champasak wasn’t on my list of three things I had to do in Laos. In fact, I didn’t even know about it. I only became aware of it while doing research online before I rode to Pakse. I don’t carry guidebooks anymore, and prefer to use free online resources instead.

The evening football match in Champasak.
The evening football match in Champasak.

Why go to Champaska? It is the site of some ancient Khmer ruins outside of Cambodia. The ruins are on the UNESCO World Heritage list. I figure those site are always worth a visit, so I decided to go there.

My first attempt failed, due to my confusion and losing data on my phone while on the road. So I decided to hit it on my way back north. This was my first real run in with buses in Laos. In short, they are terrible. Bring your own wheels.

The slightly longer version of the story: A different bus broke down, so all the passengers of that bus were crammed onto my bus.

Simple wooden houses lined the main road.
Simple wooden houses lined the main road.

Most tourists on the bus were going to Pakse, but I had them drop me off on the bank of the Mekong, across from Champasak. Only three other people got off. The river is the widest I’ve seen at this point, about a mile across.

After waking up some guys in a shack, I organized a ride across the river. Champasak is very spread out, and once again, not having my own wheels was inconvenient. I had to walk a long time in the blazing sun to a riverside guesthouse. After waking up the lady working there, I checked into a room and relaxed in the shade during the rest of the afternoon heat.

Like in Vietnam, tiny villages often have huge government buildings.
Like in Vietnam, tiny villages often have huge government buildings.

The next morning I rented a poorly maintained bike from my guesthouse and set off towards the temple. It was confusing and I ended up taking the long way through the countryside. The road was bad and hilly, and the chain came off my bike when I tried to change gears. But the scenery was very nice. Instead of the 20 minute ride I read about online, it took me an hour.

I had just missed a huge festival at the temple. It’s a huge deal, and Lao people travel from all over for it, which takes place over three days. Unfortunately, like the rest of Asia, nobody cares about litter. Plastic trash was strewn everywhere. The place was a mess.

A nice place to stay.
A nice place to stay.

The site is on a mountain, and I climbed to the top, where there were more ruins. The view from the top was nice.

With the temple checked off, I could use my bike to see the tiny town of Champasak. It’s tiny but spread out along the river. There’s no way to walk its entire length. It has a few French Colonial buildings in its center.

One of its temples was having a big party, while the other temple was silent. A stage was set up and music was blasting. The party spilled over into most of the houses along the road. Every house was having its own party, blasting its own music. People were hanging out having fun everywhere. It was a very festive atmosphere. But it grew silent again once I got away from the party temple.

Moon over the mountains.
Moon over the mountains.

Laos may seem like a tiny country, but even after a month I did not visit everywhere possible. I did not make it to the Bolivan plateau, or the extreme North. I did not visit the borderlands near China and Burma.

Will I come back? I don’t know. I hate to say never, but unlike Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines, Laos did not capture my imagination.

But you should still go. It’s amazing, traditional, and undeveloped. I had just traveled too much. It was time to take a break.

For now…

The countryside around town was beautiful.
The countryside around town was beautiful.
The way to the ruins.
The way to the ruins.
Khmer ruins in Laos.
Khmer ruins in Laos.
The climb to the top.
The climb to the top.
The temple at the top.
The temple at the top.
The view from the top.
The view from the top.
Another look at the temple at the top.
Another look at the temple at the top.
This old building was very nice.
This old building was very nice.
The party temple.
The party temple.
There was not party at this temple.
There was not party at this temple.
The sun has set on my time in Laos.
The sun has set on my time in Laos.
Terry
I'm Terry, former cubicle-dweller, and now traveler, photographer, writer, and entrepreneur. I quit my job in 2014 to travel to US national parks, then to South East Asia. I write about independent, flexible, long-term, budget travel. Sign up to my newsletter to get the latest news on what I'm up to. I hope you join me on my trek around the world.

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