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Savannakhet translates roughly to “Golden Land”, and while it was historically a prosperous, promising land for the French colonialists and the Vietnamese and Chinese merchants who followed them, the city has moved on from that bygone golden age.

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The city and provincial capital is located on the Mekong River across from Mukdahan, Thailand. Savannakhet doesn’t appear on many tourist itineraries, and its location 25 kilometres off of Route 13 is partially to blame. Those travelling through southern Laos bypass it completely and you will only end up there if you make a point of it.

Classic old bones. Photo taken in or around Savannakhet, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Classic old bones. Photo: Cindy Fan

A large number of “tourists” find themselves in Savannakhet due to the fact that there are two important border points: the second Thai-Lao Friendship Bridge just 6 km north of the city, and the Dansavanh/Lao Bao border with Vietnam, the most convenient point of entry to connect Hue and Da Nang to Laos. Both are popular spots for expats and travellers to do a visa run.

Bridging worlds is nothing new for Savannakhet, which has historically been a transit point and trading post. The French began to settle here in the 1920s, developing it into an important commercial and administrative centre. Shipments travelled up the river from Cambodia through the 4,000 Islands to Pakse and Don Kho before reaching Savannakhet (read our coverage of Don Khon for history on the steamship and railway efforts). And with the French came Vietnamese and Chinese tradesmen and merchants, the area around Talat Yen flourishing as their ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,000 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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What next?

 Browse our independent reviews of places to stay in and around Savannakhet.
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