Built in the 19th and early 20th centuries of brick and plaster by French and Chinese merchants, the two-storey houses have galvanised tin roofs to go with faded yellow exterior walls and cracked blue and green shutter-style doors.
Many also have lovely but dilapidated balconies. While some of the buildings -- such as the one that houses Sala Savanh Guesthouse -- have been tastefully restored, most still crumble reverently and are home to one or more families. A walk around town is a must particularly for those who enjoy photographing unique old buildings. They're especially photogenic at dusk.
To learn more about Savannakhet's golden age, stop by the Historic Downtown Museum directly across from Lin's Cafe, just north of the plaza on Latsaphanit Road. Here you'll find a modest collection of old maps, photos and historical exhibits in a restored 1930s shophouse in which much of the original carpentry work, including a spiral staircase, have been restored. The museum is open daily 08:30 to 20:30 and admission is free.
The Travelfish newsletter is sent out every Monday and is jammed full of free advice for travel in Southeast Asia. You can see past issues here.