Savannakhet: Charm and Character in Southern Laos

Although I love travel, I’m not a huge fan of long bus journeys, particularly when they are overnight. I’m not a great sleeper at the best of times, so trying to sleep in a cramped seat on a moving bus is almost impossible for me. Unfortunately, to get from the Pakse and Si Phan Don areas in Southern Laos to the capital, Vientiane, you kind of don’t have much of a choice as it is a long distance. However, we were lucky enough to have time on our hands, so to avoid that long uncomfortable bus journey, we decided to break up the journey into two shorter bus rides by stopping for a few nights in the Mekong/border town of Savannakhet, plus that would also mean that we get to explore a new town.

Most people that travel to Savannakhet seem to come across the Mekong River from Thailand to visit the convenient Thai consulate for a quick border run. From that alone, I really wasn’t expecting much from the town. I was blissfully surprised.

What I found was a quiet little town with clean streets, old French Colonial architecture and friendly locals. Savannakhet is a town full of charm and character, and it is best explored on a bicycle.

Street in Savannakhet, Laos

Quiet street in Savannakhet

From the seats of our rented bikes, we peddled along the quiet little streets past some beautiful old buildings and temples, around the central plaza area and down along the Mekong Riverfront where we could look over to Thailand. In between rides we of course had to sample the towns cute little cafes and restaurants.

Catholic church in Savannakhet, Laos

The Catholic Church at the end of the central plaza

French Colonial architecture in Savannakhet, Laos

French Colonial architecture in Savannakhet

Central plaza in Savannakhet, Laos

The central plaza

Little food stalls in Savannakhet, Laos

Local food stalls and restaurants

Chinese temple in Savannakhet, Laos

A Chinese temple in Savannakhet

Old shop fronts in Savannakhet, Laos

Old shopfronts and homes in Savannakhet – So much character

Buddhist temple in Savannakhet, Laos

A Buddhist temple

Old wooden buildings in Savannakhet, Laos

Old wooden buildings on a street corner

Chedis at a temple in Savannakhet, Laos

Chedis at a Buddhist temple near the riverfront

View of the Mekong River in Savannakhet, Laos

View of the Mekong River in Savannakhet. Thailand is on the other side.

Old crumbling building in Savannakhet, Laos

An old crumbling building on a street corner in Savannakhet

Old abandoned theatre in Savannakhet, Laos

The old abandoned theatre building

Buddhist Temple in Savannakhet, Laos

A beautiful Buddhist temple

Colourful Buddhist temple in Savannakhet, Laos

The colourful front of the temple

And old guesthouse in Savannakhet, Laos

An old guesthouse in Savannakhet

Plaza at night in Savannakhet, Laos

The plaza in the evening – a great spot for an atmospheric meal

I can see myself returning here someday to just slowly wander around aimlessly. It’s that kind of place, with everything that I love about Laos. Savannakhet was definitely a pleasant surprise.

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6 comments… add one
  • Dan Jan 12, 2014

    I definitely agree that overnight bus journeys are the worst! Being 6ft 5″ really is no advantage. Great pictures

    • Dean Wickham Jan 25, 2014

      Hey Dan. Yeah I can imagine it must be a tight squeeze! I’m only 5ft10″ and have enough trouble.

  • A.J Jan 12, 2014

    Although I didn’t make it as far south as Savannakhet I agree about night buses..I took the night bus from Vientiene returning to Bangkok it was awful!..lovely pictures though

    • Dean Wickham Jan 25, 2014

      Hey A.J. Yeah I’ve been on a couple of night buses in Asia. Vietnam was pretty bad as well. Certainly wasn’t a lot of sleep happening.

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