Soporific and anchored in the past, Savannakhet is a living postcard of old Laos. The city was developed during the French colonial period as an important socio-political center as it served as a link between Vietnam and the Laotian Mekong. The city streets still showcase many French-era buildings and the small Vietnamese and Chinese communities here are testament of the city’s past as a colonial trading hub. In the rural areas, the farming villages are among the most authentic in the Lao countryside. Activities here are comprised mainly of eco-trekking programs to the outskirts of town and to preserved forests.
This 16th century stupa is one of the most revered in the country of Laos. Each year in December, many Buddhists travel to this holy site for the annual ‘Boun Pha’ ceremony. It is located 13 km north-east of Savannakhet. There are two roads that lead to the stupa: the first one is the busy main road to Seno. Far more recommended is the alternative road through the green rural outskirts, passing the Beung Va lake, which is best experienced by bicycle or motorbike.
Old French style buildings can be seen in the central city area, especially around the Catholic Church and the central square. There is also a free exhibition about this history of colonization in the city on the 2nd floor of Lin’s Cafe.
Trekking routes in this area are fantastic. Homestays, forest food, school visits, local guides, etc… Highly recommended. One, two and three days treks are possible, some of which include visits to the Ho Chi Minh trail and to see the dinosaur footprints. As part of eco-trekking, you can explore the Dong Natad Forest, a ‘Provincial Protected Area’ which extends to 8,300 hectares and hosts two tribal villages. There is a beautiful lake called ‘Nong Lom’ in the centre of the forest where you can observe wild birds, butterflies and rare plants. The forest is near the That Ing Hang stupa.