Overflowing with attractions, yet still left off most traveller itineraries, Attapeu is a province virtually untouched by tourism.
Set in a valley, on the river bank, wedged between Sekong province to the north, Champasak province to the west, Vietnam to the east, and Cambodia to the south, languid Attapeu has a lot to offer the intrepid visitor, although very little in the way of tourist infrastructure has been developed to take advantage of this, even in the capital of Attapeu itself.
The capital of Attapeu province is predictably Attapeu the city. It’s the sort of place where you might see a few other foreign tourists, but usually only those searching for a more authentic version of Laos. Few tuk tuks seem to traverse the streets of the capital, but walking is the best way to explore anyway, ideally in the early morning or late afternoon, and the town grid is unusually straightforward. Mosquitoes are abundant in the rainy season so be sure to protect yourself as malaria is a seasonal risk here.
Within reach of the town is a range of natural sights -- including the Dong Ampham Forest and Xepian Forest. These two national biodiversity areas are among the last bastions of Southeast Asian wilderness. Other attractions include a portion of the historically important Ho Chi Minh trail, cultural items of interest and villages home to many ethnic groups, including the Oye, Tallang, Yae, Lavenh, Yaheune, Lavae, Cheng, Ta Oy, Hmong and Lao Lum.
Local entrepreneurs offer treks to villages in the hills around the town, which are still novel for this region and should be considered by the adventurous and culturally sensitive only. Dress conservatively and take adequate sun protection, water and mosquito repellent. Your best bet for a guide is to head down to the Dockchampa Hotel who are set up to cater for adventurous tourists.
Two main impediments have stymied tourism development in the region: unexploded ordnance (UXO) and poor roads. Considerable clearance of UXO has been undertaken but as you'd expect in one of the most heavily bombed nations on earth, plenty remain and unescorted bush-bashing is strongly discouraged. Established tracks are considered safe and while it's not compulsory to explore with a guide, it would be prudent to take one.
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Text and/or map last updated on 30th October, 2013.
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