Savannakhet to Thakhek
It's another day cycling from Savannakhet to Thakhek. This can partly done on very quiet and surprisingly good roads, as we shall see.
Savannakhet is one of the bigger cities in Laos. However, the city center is quite small and easy to walk around. There are several cheap guesthouses. In October 2010, I stayed at the Leena Guesthouse, hidden away from the main road through town. When I re-visited Savannakhet in November 2011, I stayed at the riverside in the Mekong Guesthouse near the ferries to Mukdahan).
In town you can find a Chinese and Vietnamese temple as well as a Catholic Church. The old town center has several French colonial buildings, many in need for maintenance. Cheap food can be found at the riverside but in the main street there are several cheap bread and noodle stalls.
The road to Thakhek
Here is a possibility to leave NR13 and get a smaller and very quiet road. It is also slightly shorter. Here's a description.
Follow the river out of Savannakhet. This will lead you under the Second Friendship Bridge. From here NR 11 starts. There are signs for both Thakhek and Xeno. Outside Savannakhet you will find hardly traffic except a local tractor or motorbike passing.
NR 11 leads for a few km north before it turns east. After altogether about 20 km you will reach a T-Junction. Going right leads to Xeno, but you should go left. There are road markers showing you cycle to Thakhek. After another 12 km or so, you arrive at a T-junction. Straight on lies the village Kengkaboa, but you need to take the dust road.
From km 48 to km 66you will cycle on a dust road. It's actually fine cycling as there are few rocks on the road and very little cars. You will pass more tiny villages, crossing old iron bridges but after exactly 18 km you're back at excellent asphalt.
From here it's another 50 km or so to Thakhek. Parts of this road go directly next to the Mekong.
6km before Thakhek there is a nice little stop to make at the That Sikhottabong Cultural Park.
After the park you can cycle easily into town. There's several guesthouses and hotels. In the evening you can get a pleasant and cheap meal at the Mekong riverside.
Thakhek is small town with a pleasant old center. Around a central square you find some older colonial styled buildings. In the surrounding you can visit some interesting caves. Like in Savannakhet, you can cross here to Thailand, there are several ferries and a customs service available.
All in all, Thakhek is not an unpleasant little town and worth a night or 2 to stay. Should you be ready for a few days off the bike, I would certainly recommend this as after Thakhek I do not really find the next towns of too much interest.
Other pages about Laos:
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