Pakbaeng - one night is not enough in this picturesque town

Pakbaeng is known as a boat station town because most folks get there by river and it sits midway between Huayxai and Luang Prabang, perched on the banks of the Mekong.
While travellers will likely be in Pakbeng on a stopover during the two-day boat trip between Huayxai and Luang Prabang, this laidback town definitely deserves a longer stay.
Pakbaeng is a small district in Oudomxay province and some people know it for its cosy, relaxed streets which are lined with traditional houses, restaurants and hotels.
It’s one of the must-see places in Laos and becoming famous for its magnificent view of the Mekong River from the nearby hills.

The boat station.

Most visitors get there on their way between Huayxai and Luang Prabang and stay just a night, but Pakbaeng is worthy of more of your time to take in the interesting sites.
Myself, I’ve heard about this town since I was a young boy and knew about boats as the best mode of transport but never had the opportunity to visit.
However, last month I was sent to work in Huayxai and Luang Prabang, so I decided to take a boat as many people have recommended.
Of course, the trip was amazing and, indeed, Pakbaeng is not just a town for an overnight stay because it’s such a relaxing and beautiful place.
My boat arrived there around 4pm. At the riverbank, there are many boats, so I understand why they call it the ‘boat town’.
There are many cheap guesthouses nestled along the Mekong riverside to choose from. I took one with a good restaurant, and in the morning they say  I can watch elephant swimming because this guesthouse is opposite the Elephant Park.
With not much time in this lovely town and after checking in to my room after a long day’s boat trip, I walk straight out into the street.
I instantly fall in love as I stroll along the street. The locals have many things for sale in front of their houses. I feel like it’s a market, so I enjoy buying some street food which makes me skip dinner.
Adding to the town’s quaintness, all the buildings are squeezed between the mighty Mekong and the adjacent hills.
I return to my guesthouse as darkness descends, but I’m tempted by great music to join the crowd in the local bars.
But I only stay until 10pm and spend some time at the riverbank before making it back to my room.
Travelling across Laos and seeing the different sunsets and sunrises is a favourite activity of mine and for Pakbaeng I rise early to make my way up the local mountain to watch a lovely sunrise.
I spend about 45 minutes walking slowly to the top view point and join other people who have also arisen early.
I’m greeted by a big red sun was coming out from the mountains, and it’s so amazing to watch it shine over the Mekong River.
I would have liked to stay longer in this lovely place but I also want to see the elephants swimming.
I walked down from the top with some young students who have some sticky rice and meat to eat. Typical of Lao kids across the country.
I stop at the school and see a lot of children playing together and they ask me to join in. We talk together as they wait for the school doors to open. It’s so much fun that I forget about getting back to watch the elephants swimming.
My boat leaves at 9am, so my wonderful short stay must end, and it makes me sad that I didn’t do everything that I hoped. I want to say that Pakbaeng is definitely not a one-night stopover.

By Patithin Phetmeuangphuan
(Latest Update June 18, 2019)

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