Savannakhet province is packed with options for environmentally sensitive trekking, cycling and wildlife tours – many of them still in their infancy. Staff at the Eco Guide Unit can offer advice on what’s available and, if you’re interested, find you an English-speaking guide.
If you’d rather stay closer to town, a bike ride out in any direction from the centre gives an opportunity to view the difference in lifestyles between the ethnic Vietnamese of the town and the ethnic Lao in the countryside. As you head out, brick and stucco give way to teak and bamboo, while rows of shade trees come to an abrupt halt and fruit trees – mango, guava and papaya – begin to appear in every yard.
That Ing Hang
That Ing Hang
A much revered Buddhist stupa dating from the sixteenth century (although some locals claim it’s over a thousand years old), That Ing Hang is located just outside Savannakhet and can be reached by bike or motorcycle: follow Route 13 north for 13km until you see a sign on the right and follow this road for a further 3km. The stupa is covered in crude yet appealing stucco work, and the well-manicured courtyard that surrounds it offers a pleasant opportunity for a stroll and photographs.
The stupa is best visited during its annual festival in February when thousands make the pilgrimage, camping in its grounds. During the celebrations, the door to a small chamber at the base of the stupa is opened, and male devotees queue up to make offerings to the Buddha images inside. By custom, women are prohibited from entering this inner sanctum.