The province of Champasak (or Champassak, Lao is located in the south-west Laos, at the boundary to Thailand and Cambodia. It is one of the three principalities that succeeded the Lao kingdom of Lan Xang. The river Mekong flows through the province. The capital of the province is Pakse, but it takes its name from Champasak, the former capital of the Kingdom of Champasak. There are many different minorities in Champasack whom have their own language, culture and lifestyles. Neighboring are the provinces Salavan, Xekong and Attapu, as well as Cambodia (provinces Stung Treng and Preah Vihear) to the south and Thailand (Ubon Ratchathani Province) to the west. The Champasak Province has much to offer. The best known for its spectacular Khmer ruins at Wat Phu and the stunning cluster of islands near the Cambodian border known as Si Phan Don (4,000 islands). Here , visitors will also find elephant trekking in Ban Khiet Ngong, stunning waterfalls rimming the Bolaven Plateau, and you'll get a glimpse into authentic, traditional Laotian life on the islands of Don Kho near Pakse and Don Deng near Champasak Town, making a tour of the region well worth the extra effort. There are plenty to see in this region so travellers should be prepared to spend longer in this province than expected.
History Champassak was once, 1400 years ago, the centre of power in the lower Mekong basin, later a strong outpost of the Khmer Angkor empire and later still one of the three kingdoms to rule over the remains of the Lan Xang kingdom. A fine heritage that, according to the last prince of Champassak, was brought to hard times by a former queen's indiscretion. The beautiful Nang Pao ruled over Champassak in the mid-17th century. But it's lonely at the top and the queen found comfort in the arms of a prince from a neighbouring kingdom. Nang Pao became pregnant causing a great scandal. Though the queen remained in power and was succeeded by her illegitimate daughter, Nang Peng, the unhappy Nang Pao decreed that all unmarried mothers in the kingdom must sacrifice a buffalo for their sins. The practice survived in some local communities until the 1980s, the unfortunate women being known as Nang Pao's Daughters. Though the Kingdom of Champassak prospered for a while after the final dissolution of Lan Xang at the beginning the 18th century, its fortunes faltered quickly and it was reduced to a vassal state of Siam before the century had passed. For its part in Chao Anou's abortive attempt to win freedom from the Siamese for the Lao kingdoms, Champassak lost all of its territory east of the Mekong. Under French rule the once mighty kingdom became a mere administrative block; its royalty stripped of many of their privileges. "With an unmarried mother as queen," Prince Boun Oum na Champassak, the last of the kingdom's royal line, once said, "everything started so badly that the game was lost before it began." Boun Oum, who died under French exile in 1980, may have griped about his family's downfall (though he was not a direct descendent of Nang Pao), but it did not stop him from using his remaining royal privileges to loot the nearby Wat Phu. The magnificent Angkorian temple complex was recently made a UNESCO heritage site and is considered one of the finest Angkor-inspired edifices outside of Cambodia. Fading French colonial architecture and ancient temple ruins make Champassak the rich cultural heritage of Laos.