Thakhek & Kong Lor

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Thakek is a quaint little town standing as a rarely visited relic of the Colonial era, situated on the banks of the Mekong River with Thailand sitting on the opposing bank. It has some wonderful Franco-Chinese colonial era buildings in the Old Town, closer to the riverside, and is drenched with a relaxed pace of life. There is little to do here except wander through the town, building up to a sun-downing BeerLao in one of the riverside restaurants.

The main reason you will find yourself in Thakek is to use it as a (pleasant) base from which to explore the nearby countryside, most notable of which constitutes Phu Hin Bun National Park. This is a wilderness area of primeval forest, bubbling streams and twisting rivers, picture-postcard pretty paddy fields, remote villages, spectacular karst outcrops covered by all manner of flora clinging to the cracks, and the beguiling Kong Lor cave systems. This is without doubt one of the most beautiful landscapes in Laos, perhaps even all Indochina – although due to its remoteness and an almost total lack of tourist infrastructure it remains rarely visited. This may change in the coming years as there is a earnest campaign to be recognised by UNESCO.

This area, skirted on one side by the Mekong River and on the other the mountain range which divides Laos from Vietnam, is also home to wild elephants, deer, tigers and the endangered Douc languer – though, as it always the case with the skittish wildlife in South East Asia, you should consider yourself very lucky to actually see any of these. But this is not why you come to this dramatic place – instead it is to discover a lost world of rare beauty, well away from other travellers.

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