Pakse, Laos: The Obsession with Noodle Soup Begins

Pakse noodle shop
Noodle shop near Pakse market
The direct bus from Don Khong (60,000k/$7.60) dropped us about 7km outside of Pakse and we were rushed on to a songthaew (of sorts) to the centre. We should have made a deal before we got on – that was our mistake – and we ended up paying 20,000k/$2.50 each to the guesthouse area of town (I’m pretty sure we should have only paid 10,000k each).

We walked to Lankham Hotel but, despite looking at a couple of rooms, it was a bit dark and dingy for our liking. We walked a couple of doors down to the Saigon-Champasak Guesthouse. For 100,000k/$12.60 we got an AC room with a tv and private bathroom, but no window.

We had lunch at the much talked up Indian restaurant, Jasmine, but found the food just okay. The meat was a bit dry — perhaps their veggie dishes are better.

We got up early the next day with the hopes of beating the heat. Coffee Talk was our first stop — black Laos coffee served with condensed milk and a bit of whitener. The coffee was heavenly, not surprising given the proximity of Pakse to the Bolaven Plateau — Laos’ prime coffee growing area. It was strong and the perfect early morning pick-me-up.
Pakse, Laos coffee with condensed milkOur next stop, breakfast. We walked down the street for our first taste of Laos’ famous khoa jii paate. A fresh baguette, slightly toasted over coals, filled with Laos pate, chopped up pork, pickled carrots, and cucumber, with your choice of various sauces. We got our baguettes from a friendly, old couple who tried to teach us a few Laos words while they carefully prepared our sandwiches.

We ate our sandwiches and enjoyed the view of the confluence of the Mekong and the Se Don rivers.

After mailing a couple of postcards at the post office (spoiler alert), we strolled through the pleasant market and into the Champasak Plaza Shopping Centre, an Asian shopping mall at its finest. Sara finally found the wavy-edged peeler that she had been dreaming about ever since she had her first wavy-edged carrot in Bangkok.

Later that night we had a bowl of salty noodle soup with duck, served with iced Chinese tea, at a noodle shop on the main street. Noodle shops are a tasty and inexpensive place to eat in Laos. You can find the ubiquitous Chinese, Vietnamese, and Laos style noodle shops everywhere. The trick is to find your own perfect combination of flavours and spices from those laid out on the table in front of you. It’s also a good opportunity to practise your spoon-chopstick combo. Watch the locals to figure it out.

Bellies full and taste buds happy, we headed to Savannakhet.