We eventually wanted to get to Vientiene, but not only did we not fancy a 5000 hour bus journey, we also wanted to see some of south/central Laos. So we chose to stop in Savannakhet.
It was hard to choose between Thakeat and Savannakhet. The former sounded great if we had more time, as there is a great motorbike trip known as ‘The Loop’ which I’d love to do one day. But realistically we could only stop for 2 nights, so I thought spending that time exploring a small town would be good. Savannakhet it was.
Located right on the Mekong river and bordering Thailand, I suspect most visitors are here because of border runs, not that we saw many visitors at all. This is unbelievably the second largest city in Laos – which goes a long way to show how sleepy the country really is.
We arrived after yet another bus trip which took way longer than it should have done, where the driver actually forgot a few of us were going to Savannakhet until we reminded him, resulting in a rushed payment to a local minibus driver, and an eventual 11.30pm arrival. Thankfully the guesthouse owner was still awake and we found a late night noodle soup stall which was AMAZING after 10 hours on a bus.
I’ll be honest, there was even less to do in Savannakhet than I imagined. It was rather quiet to say the least. But you know what? I didn’t mind. We had a nice enough day walking round the deserted streets looking at old/colonial buildings.
The one thing we really did want to see was the Dinosaur Museum – Savannakhet is where a lot of Laos dinosaur bones were found. Sadly the whole place was deserted and locked up when we visited, probably because it isn’t worth opening when there are no tourists. The closest we got to a dinosaur was this beautifully manicured hedge.
We walked down to the riverfront hoping for well…something. But it isn’t developed at all in Savannakhet. Just trees and the odd stray dog.
So, back to the buildings…
We went to Lin’s Cafe for some very good coffee and food – it was the only such place in town. There was another cafe but it was closed for refurbishment. Lin’s has a mini gallery upstairs with photos, drawings and plans of the town’s colonial era buildings. It only occupied us for 10 minutes but it was nice to see, and the closest thing we would get to sightseeing.
In the evening we went to another local restaurant where we inadvertently ordered some meat thinking it was sliced duck but was either some supremely tough liver or another part of an unspecified animal. I dread to think but we just about finished it. Then some dogs came and growled at us. It was quite a night.
So after that excitement we left the next morning at 7am to head to Vientiene. I may not have really sold Savannakhet here as a destination but honestly there are far worse places you could stopover in. I just hope the Dinosaur Museum is open for you…
Where We Stayed
We headed to Souannavong Guest House purely because it was the best rated out of the handful that exist. For 100,000 kip (£7.40) per night I can’t complain – it had private bathrooms, air con, TV, Wi-Fi and a lovely view from the window into the lobby. The room we stayed in felt a bit like an office cubicle but was it was clean and perfectly ok. The owner was a nice guy as well.