Pakse is a former French-colonial stronghold, linked now with neighboring Thailand by a bridge 40 km (25 miles) away. It plays a central role in an ambitious regional plan to create an "Emerald Triangle"—a trade and tourism community grouping Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia. The city has few attractions, but is the starting point for tours to the Khmer ruins at Wat Phu, the 4,000 Islands, and the Bolaven Plateau, which straddles
the southern provinces of Saravan, Sekon, Attapeu, and Champasak. The volcanic soil of the plateau makes the vast region ideal for agriculture: it's the source of much of the country's prized coffee, tea, and spices. Despite its beauty and central role in the Lao economy, the plateau has minimal tourist infrastructure, and is very much off-the-beaten-track territory.