FEATURE: Delving into Savannakhet, a land steeped in history
SAVANNAKHET, Laos (Vientiane Times/ANN) - Personnel from the Vientiane Times, Lao National Radio, Lao National TV and the Lao News Agency (Kaosan Pathhet Lao) enjoyed an informative tour of Savannakhet last month, learning about the province’s most interesting attractions.
The visit was arranged by the Tourism Marketing Department, Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
The six-day trip began with the Pha That Phon stupa festival in Xayphouthong district, where the colourful opening ceremony was attended by thousands of people, both local and from other countries.
This festival takes place every year and pays homage to the stupa around the full moon day of the third lunar month in the Buddhist calendar.
Among the highlights was a wax castle procession which was led by monks and included young men dressed in veteran soldiers’ uniforms, along with dignitaries and members of the public.
The media team met district Governor Mr Khamvixay Phouyyavong and staff at the Information, Culture and Tourism office to discuss tourism marketing in the district.
Next day, we visited families who make a living by weaving cotton fabric in Lahanam village, Sonekhone district.
We talked to the villagers and learnt how they made the fabric and what they used it for.
This village was very interesting because 99 percent of the families who live here weave cotton, with some selling their products to Japan and America.
The same day, we visited Pha That Oumoung stupa in Lahakhok village. It’s situated in a temple where many people come to worship and make wishes, and is especially popular with people coming from Thailand.
We then went to the Stone House in Xayphouthong district, which was built between 557 and 700 AD. All parts of this ancient structure are made from large stones and there are some old Buddha statues inside, which people continue to worship.
This ancient shrine is surrounded by trees, including the fragrant dok champa, which is the national flower of Laos.
In the evening we returned to the Pha That Phon stupa festival to enjoy the evening light when the sunset bathes the farms and the sugar palms in a golden glow.
Next on the itinerary was the Faiyoui dike in Champhon district, followed by the Dongling monkey conservation area where hundreds of monkeys live.
We then visited Nonglamchanh temple, a beautiful and very old structure built entirely of wood and which visitors may not enter wearing either shoes or socks.
Then we headed to Vat Kao Ta Liew temple, another ancient building which is largely a ruin. No monks live there but it’s within a conservation area and is scheduled for restoration.
We ended the day with a visit to Turtle Lake. The locals believe that the soft-shelled turtles here are sacred and are not to be disturbed. If someone did cause the turtles distress, that person would encounter a problem in the near future.
There are hundreds of turtles and the best time to see them is when local children call them to eat food and talk to them in a special way.
On our last day we went to Xepon district where we learnt more about the Ho Chi Minh Trail and the origins of the great friendship between Laos and Vietnam, which began during the Indochina war. We learnt a lot more during our visit to the Museum of Laos-Vietnam Legacy of Joint Victory Battle.
For those wanting to delve into the countries’ shared history on the battlefield, this museum is a good place to start.
It is spread over one and a half hectares and is divided into two zones – an outdoor display and indoor exhibits. It is located at Dongsavanh village and is 255km east of Savannakhet provincial capital on Road No. 9.
The museum, which opened in 2012, has an impressive display of military hardware that was used during the Indochina War. The grounds offer visitors a close up view of about 75 items, including trucks, artillery tanks, a helicopter, transport boats and other wartime remnants.
We then headed to an old bridge which crosses the Xepon River and saw lots of old bomb cases that the villagers were now using as boats.
We ended our trip by visiting a magnificent waterfall which was surrounded by boulders and sandy spots, but there were hardly any visitors.
Savannakhet is well worth a visit to explore some of the many historical sites, temples and areas of natural beauty, with something eye-catching at every turn.