A very laid-back town with ‘relaxing’ as a favourite pastime, there is not much to do around town apart from seek out the many lovely old French colonial buildings to photograph…and have a coffee whilst waiting for a Vietnam visa.
Whilst travelling south, decided to break the journey up from Thathek by taking a short 2-hour bus trip (30,000K) to Savannakhet.
As the Thathek bus station is a bit too far to walk with heavy packs, had to wake up a tuk-tuk driver sleeping heavily in his vehicle. Slightly annoyed with us, I had to barter hard for a price to the station. But as he was woken from his slumber, I could only bargain the fare down to 15,000K per person; a rip-off for just a few kilometres!
I have to apologise in advance for the lack of photos in this post, regardless of the cool buildings in this city. But, after 7 months of taking photos whilst travelling, think I was suffering from photographer’s burn-out, not feeling very creative, and just wanted to relax. My next post will include a few more photos for your delectation.
Savannakhet is a quieter city than most, in Laos. Missed the colourful Boat Racing Festival (Boun Suang Heua) here but did manage to see a little a few days later in Pakse. Typically, this festival is held in Vientiane, Savannakhet, and Champasak province at differing times. All along the Mekong, you’ll see boats practicing and parties happening.
The locals are super friendly in this city and know how to make you feel at home. So much so that after dinner one night, walking along the Talat Yen Plaza (Night Market but no market to be found), a bunch of giggling locals called us over. They were having a great time with music blaring, beer drinking, and eating dried (stinky) squid. Making us sit down, we had to dry the dried squid, which was like a tough smelly leather shoe and wash this down with Beerlao. After spending an hour laughing and trying to communicate (not much English on their part and not much Laos on our part), we parted company, and they partied on.
Other sights and things to do in Savannakhet include the swimming pool, tennis club, eco-tourism treks, Nong Lom lake, a Lao Massage, and there’s also the Savan Vegas Casino, if you’re interested in parting with some cash.
- Barrardleungxay Hotel (Road No 9) – Great newish hotel, lovely staff, but it is about 5kms out of the city centre, so it is better if you have your own wheels as free parking is available. This hotel is spotless throughout with a good-sized comfortable room (comfy bed, TV, AC,wifi in room, fridge, serviced daily, bottled water, toiletries). This is close to a market area, which does sell cheap BBQ meats and sticky rice (fruit and veg also available). Not much around this area and we attracted loads of strange looks from the locals.The hotel is about a 10-15,000K/person (each way) by sŏrngtăaou to the city, which is the only reason for the move closer into the city.
First night was very quiet but the 2nd night was rowdy as many locals checked in and the room next to ours had several guys drinking and playing loud games until early hours of the morning.
- Souannavong Guesthouse (152 Senna Road) – Wanting accommodation closer to the centre, walked around Savannakhet and stumbled upon this small guest house. This abode is in walking distance to everywhere in town and the Mekong riverfront. Although the room can use a lick of paint, it’s clean, and you can’t go wrong at only 100,000K/night (low season) for a double (A/C, TV, hot water, okay wi-fi in room).
The owner is very helpful, accommodating, good to chat with about Laos, and speaks English, so instead of 2 nights, we stayed 4. He also rents bicycles and motor bikes.
- Market – having arrived at the Barradleun Gxay Hotel late afternoon and with nothing around food-wise (strange for Laos), we walked about 5-minutes from the hotel and stumbled upon a local market, which was closing for the night. A plastic bag full of sticky rice (5,000K) and a couple of odd bits of chicken later (fed the chicken to a dog as it wasn’t great), ventured back to the hotel for the night.
- Bar & Restaurant (not sure of name) – from the Barradleun Gxay Hotel, cross the road and walk down the casino road a few blocks. This bar is on your right and serves good cheap local food; drinks are average price. The owner is very friendly, speaks English well and this bar is pretty busy with locals and very few tourists.
- Lin’s Café (Latsaphanit Rd., Xaiyaphoum Village) – One of the better cafés in Laos and quite busy with locals and tourists; loved the food and fresh juices here. Excellent service and ambiance – consistently great, so, ate here most days! ‘Art’ is very attentive and will look after you, continuously topping up your icy cold water. For the quality, think this is the cheapest (western-style) restaurant in Savan. The coffees are very good, the breakfasts are excellent, lunch was also very good. Fresh cakes/muffins are baked in-house and very yummy.
If you want quieter time to relax, read, or chat there’s an upstairs comfy lounging area, which has a free exhibition on; have your meals here for a change. Closed on Wednesdays.
- Cafe Chai Dee (Unit 01, Lattanalansy Thai village) – Good atmosphere and food (Japanese and Western on the menu only). Great friendly service. Prices are a little higher than other cafes in town. Free wi-fi. Some good herbal teas on offer.
Although the next overland border crossing from Laos is into Cambodia, read too many stories of rip-offs and corruption by officials issuing visas there; so, decided to stop off in Savannakhet for longer than usual to obtain a visa for Vietnam.
This took several business days and you can choose from a 1, 2, or 3-month visa to start on your preferred dates. The 3-month visa is the most economical at USD$80. Staff at the Vietnamese Consulate General (418, Sisavangvong, Khanthabury) are lovely and very helpful.
Another short hop heading south and onto Pakse, which is supposed to be a 5-hour bus ride…we’ll see.