Thakhek is the principle town of Khammouane province in central Laos, southeast of the capital Vientiane. Formerly known as Sri Gotabura, Thakhek was the outpost of the My-Khmer kingdoms of Funan and Chenla. Its name dates from the colonial French, meaning "mooring point for guests".
The main draw of the town is the wider province, but the town itself is also rather charming. Situated on the banks of the wide Mekong river, opposite Nakhon Phanom in Thailand, the town affords sweeping views, especially from the old quarter. Here, there are numerous French-colonial buildings, which are a mixture of shop-houses and grand government buildings. The local population is ethnically diverse and composed of Phuan, Tahoy, Kri, Katang, Maling and Hmong peoples. The riverfront comes alive in the evening when the street-food vendors are at their busiest and families come out to join the fun. If you stay over in the town, we highly recommend spending the evening dining on the riverfront, overlooking Thailand. You are not likely to see huge numbers of other foreigners in the town, since this is still an off-the-beaten-path area and has only caught on with for those looking for adventure travel in Laos.
Khammouane province is a region of rugged landscapes and has some of the most fertile land in Laos. As well as producing rice, sugar cane, cabbages and bananas, Khammouane province also has two protected areas of biodiversity, the Khammouane Limestone National Biodiversity Conservation Area - also known as Hin Boun - and the Nakai-Namtheun Park. Thakhek is the perfect gateway to exploring this area, with its caving and climbing opportunities. Just outside of Thakhek is a seven kilometre long cave system that can be explored partly by boat. Perfect for those that would like to combine a more traditional Laos itinerary with some rugged adventure. The best time to visit Thakhek on a tailor-made holiday to Laos is between November and March, and if you are interested in trekking, caving, or climbing it is certainly best to go during a dry time of year when the water levels are not too high.
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