The South of Laos


Global Mark : 11.37

Ratings by criteria : 

Charm Scenery Parks Culture Minor. Market Relax Fiesta 


 4 3 1 3 2 5 4 2 2 11.56

Ratings by backpackers :

Surveyed Liked  Comeback  Recommend  Range AVER.
21 76% (16)  38% (8) 71% (15) 8 to 16 11.19

Description :
A small charming town by the Mekong, full of old colonial houses and smiling kids.

Comments : This is basically a transit point on your way from/to Pakse, Thailand (Mukdahan) or Vietnam (Lao Bao) but it is a very nice & relaxing one. 

What to do ? Walk the relaxed streets / Say "Sabaidy" to the kids / Visit the holiest temple in South Laos / Make photos at the great market / Hold dinosaur bones or meteorites fragments (a few more photos maybe ?) at the museum / Spend all your remaining Kips on Thai or Vietnamese products / Meet Thai & Vietnamese people / Play petanque with the locals / Swim in a small pool with lots of kids or in the Mekong with also lots of kids / Exchange info with travelers from the other direction / Sip a coconut while watching the sunset over the Mekong

What you may not like ? The cost of accomodation & what you get for that price / The cost of food / The road on the way to the temple : hilly and bordered with plastic bags / The far away market & bus station / Not being as good as the locals at petanque / Not being able to buy the products in the stores at Bahts prices

How long ? One or two days, more to relax.

Where to stay ? 

  • Sayamungkun GH (212426), near Wat Sainyamungkhun, south of Tha Dan Rd / Dbl or Trpl w. cold shower $4 or $5, Dbl w. AC & HW shower $7 / Go there for the OK clean rooms / What you may not like : the dim lightning in some rooms
  • Auberge du Paradis, Tha Dan Rd, just west of Phetsalat Rd / Charming rooms w. AC & HW shower $15 / Superb colonial house & small garden 
  • Santyphad Hotel (212177), Chaleunmouang Rd, west of the above, near the Mekong / Fan or AC rooms w. cold shower K18500 or K25000 / Girls' bikes K10000 per day (7000 half day) / Go there for the best big fan rooms for this price & the old charm of this huge place / What you may not like : that this is the best you can get for this price as it is really not fresh & quite basic with dripping water in the bathroom, some broken fan and rather unprotected windows. 
  • Mekong Hotel, north of the above, opposite the Mekong / Basic Dbl without shower $6, Nice rooms w. AC, fridge & TV $15 / No HW outside / Lack of charm and expensive.
  • Savanbanhao Hotel (212202), Saenna Rd, South of Sutthanu Rd, near the Chinese Temple / Basic room K15500, better w. cold water K23500, upstairs w. AC K27500, w. HW shower 35500 / Go there for the cheapest big bed in town & the OK rooms w. shower / What you may not like : the dirtiness, smell & fan noise of the cheapest rooms, the disgusting common bathroom, the not so clean other rooms.
  • Savan Phatthana GH (212955), just south of the above / Dbl w. cold shower K30000, w. AC K40000 / Quite expensive for what you get as it is not that fresh nor clean with an ugly bathroom. 
  • The Vietnamese Motel inside the bus station is the cheapest place in town with Dorm (6) K6000 but it is not recommended as unpleasant & unsecured (except if with friends). They also have rooms for K20000 without shower which could be convenient if you are scared of missing your early bus...

Backpacker's Tips : Emanuele, Italy (Jan 06)
 Leena GH, 300 meters off the main road (Ratsavong rd.), just from most the internet shops are, very quite place, DBl w HW shower, AC, 60.000 kip. But ask for the new pink building at the right of the reception.
Sayamungkun GH: what you may not like: The noisy pub just in front of the GH.

Where to eat ? For lunch, go to the market (Talaat Savanxay), 100m west off the Bus Station. Culture shocks & cheap food guaranteed. For dinner, stay next to the Mekong or try the small street going north from the disappointing "Food Garden". Alongside Latsavongseuk, just north of Tha Dan Rd, a small food stall prepares tasty oily sausages & snacks with a good sauce & salad for around K4000. 

Internet ? On Si Muang Rd, near the Food Garden, a photocopy place also has internet for a whopping K1000 per mn. 

Bike ? Santhypad Hotel : ladies bikes, K10000 or K7000 half day / Xok Kai Restaurant (50m east from the hotel) : mountain bikes, K5000 per day / "Au Rendez-vous" restaurant (pass the church, at the corner with Latsavongseuk Rd) : good mountain bikes, K5000 per day

A few attractions ?

That Ing Hang, is considered the holiest worship place in southern Laos. It is quite nice & original indeed but rather small so probably not worth spending another day in Savannakhet just to visit it, nor K15-20000 for a private tuk-tuk return ride. Admission is free but girls are not permitted to enter the chamber (not much to see anyway). It is 12km away from the Bus Station (9km on dirty & hilly Route No13 to Vientiane plus 3km on a better road with some shadow toward east, clear sign at the turn off) which means about 30mn on a good bike with some sweat along the way. Quite a few crowded tuk-tuk uses Route 13 from the bus station and some were also spotted waiting for passengers at the turn off, in case you are allergic to bike exercise...
On the way to the above, it is imperative to stop at the Market (Talaat Savanxay), 100m east of the Bus Station. It is rather big and the interesting section (veggies & meats) is at the northern extremity. During the day, plenty of opportunities to eat here as well...
There is also a small museum in town where you are allowed (for how long ?) to handle dinosaurs bones & meteorites fragments. It is located on Khanthabuli Rd, North of Wat Sainyaphum. Admission is K1000 but you should also give a tip to your guide.
After your bike work out, why not splash with local kids at the small swimming pool ? It can be found opposite Phonepaseut Hotel and there is in theory a K8000 admission fee for non resident. I do not think however that all the kids sleep in their $25 rooms...

 << Discover a few sights of Savannakhet

Going to Vietnam ? The road to the border at Lao Bao is very bad so be prepared for a rough 10 hours journey (more if rain). The daily bus leave at 6am and cost K15000. Also possible to rent an AC bus (15 seats) for $180... International buses also leave at 11pm to Hue (K83000, 12 hrs, Mond & Thurs), Danang (K105000, Tues., Wed, Frid & Sat) via Dong Ha (K65000, daily except Sunday). There is also a bus once a month (currently on the 6th) to Hanoi for K181000.

Coming from Vietnam ? There is only one bus a day from Lao Bao to Savannakhet, leaving at 6am. You may therefore have to go first to Sepon (K7000, 2 hours), sleep there and take the 8am bus to Savannakhet the next day (K15000, 8 hours). Off course, as usual, things could change...

Going to Thailand ? Boats leave Mond to Frid at 9,10,11,13:30,14:15 & 16, Saturday at 10:30, 14:15 & 16, Sunday at 10:30 & 15 (Thai boat). The 20mn trip cost K10.000. There is also a K10000 immigration fee on Sat & Sund as Thai officials are working overtimes !

Changing money ? The two banks were on holidays when I was there so I could not check out the TC conditions. Apparently, it is not possible to exchange Kips for Bahts there. Santyphad Hotel could do it for K250 per Bahts (bad rate) while Phonpaseut Hotel quoted the normal K200 per Bahts. More places should do this kind of traffic and a few travelers should also be interested.

Leaving Savannakhet ?

The bus station is about 2km north. Tuk-tuk K2000.
To Vientiane, you also have the option of the 7am bus from Sensabay Co. Same cost, same service, same speed. See Trip from Vientiane for details. It leaves from about 1.5km south of the Bus Station, on the road going to the airport, 500 m north of Phonepaseut Hotel (tuk-tuk 1500K).

Bus Schedules : 

To Price Road Duration Time Nb Freq.
Tha Khaek K10000 good 3 7,9,11,13,14:30 5 na
Vientiane K20000 good 9 6:30,8,9:30,11:30 /14 to 21 a few na / hour
Pakse K17000 bad 9 6 1 na
Lao Bao K65000 bad 10 6 1 na

The trip to Pakse :
SS / where ? / K17000 / 9 hrs / Reconverted truck
This was the tough one : 9 hours on a bad & dusty road in a crowded bad truck from where you could see very little of the apparently-nothing-so-special scenery. The worse trip I ever did in Asia ! (and I did go to Angkor Wat by truck...)
The only vehicle was supposed to leave at 6am so I arrived at 5:30. Too late for the best seats (that is the only ones with a small front view but consequently the most dusty, wear an helmet !) but on time for avoiding the bumpy rear ones. At 7am, it looked quite full to me but we waited until 7:30 to make sure there would not be a square centimeter of space left. 
The road was bad & dusty (but they are working on a new good one) except for the last hour but nevertheless quite bearable. The seating conditions were more questionable, with no view as the "windows" were too low. As a consequence, quite a few westerners headed toward the roof. Girls were however refused access to the sun bathing area under the pretext that they would distract other men...
We had a few breaks on the way, to change a tire or to let salesgirls assault the windows to sell their delicacies but not for lunch. During those stops, a few westerners realized that local people were not shy to take on their seat and not ashamed to keep them while they stood in the alley.
We arrived a bit before 4pm, all quite covered with dust. The north station is 8km out of town so a tuk-tuk ride is quite mandatory (K2000). Tell the driver where you wishes to go.

 << Discover a bus trip

See also the trip from Vientiane