Photo: Classic shopfront architecture.

Exploring Savannakhet

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Savannakhet doesn’t appear on many tourist itineraries. It’s thin on sights and the decline in tourism interest over the years means that many of the programmes are currently not operating. The draw is the city itself, the historic downtown being the highlight. A showcase of languid ambience and quaint architecture, it can be atmospheric and utterly charming.





A wander around the historic downtown is a must. At the heart is Talat Yen, a square where a food market pops up nightly; it’s a great place to graze on nibbles, people watch and wind down. In the 1920s, the French began to settle in Savannakhet, developing it into a commercial and administrative centre. Shipments travelled up the Mekong from Cambodia to Pakse and Don Kho island before reaching Savannakhet.

The abandoned Khounsavan Cinema. Photo taken in or around Exploring Savannakhet, Savannakhet, Laos by Cindy Fan.

The abandoned Khounsavan Cinema. Photo: Cindy Fan

With the French settlement came Vietnamese and Chinese tradesmen and merchants, the area around Talat Yen and the Catholic Church becoming their commercial hub. You can still see the old wooden shop houses, mixed in with later 1970s modernist pebbledash and terrazzo homes and buildings. Buildings have been touched up with new roofs and some restoration work but much of the architectural details remain as they were, crumbling, dilapidated, imbued with a nostalgia long lost in cities like Tha Khaek and Pakse.

There are many buildings to gawk at on the streets running off from Talat Yen, all laid out in a neat grid. Check out Sooksavan Cafe Bistro, which is beside the abandoned modernist Khounsavan Cinema, Savan Cafe and the shops all along this street, Vivanouk B&B, the now closed Sala Savan Guesthouse and Lin’s Cafe, which in late 2016 still had a small exhibition on the old town upstairs. Look for battered, faded Chinese sign boards, along with a Chinese and Vietnamese temple.

Pace yourself. Photo taken in or around Exploring Savannakhet, Savannakhet, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Pace yourself. Photo: Cindy Fan

At the northeast corner of Talat Yen is Saint Theresa Catholic Church, an important landmark built in the 1920s. The church is still active and services are held from 05:30 to 06:30 Sunday ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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Popular attractions in Savannakhet

A selection of some of our favourite sights and activities around Savannakhet.



Best places to stay in Savannakhet

A selection of some of our favourite places to stay in Savannakhet.


What next?

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

Where are you planning on heading to after Savannakhet? Here are some spots commonly visited from here, or click here to see a full destination list for Laos.


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