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Savannakhet: Province of Paradise

Hotay Pidok or Buddhist Teaching Library, Dong Meuang village
Hotay Pidok or Buddhist Teaching Library, Dong Meuang village

Savannakhet, is dotted with many derelict remnants from French colonial times; government buildings, churches and even Laos’ oldest cinema. But if you’re not a history buff, or want a little more of the outdoors during your southern sojourn, the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) project to assist villagers in developing their surroundings and skills, for sustainable tourism is just what you’re looking for.

About 12 km from the provincial capital of Savannakhet Town is Pha That Ing Hang, a 4th century stupa, built on a site, where it is believed that the Buddha delivered his sermons and where some of his bones lie buried.

The wetlands of the Dong Na Tad Protected Area are said to have been the natural habitat of hundreds of turtles a long time ago.

Champhone District is where the main tourist attractions in Savannakhet are located.

The Champhone circuit can be done on motorbikes or by car. Tours are also organized by the tourism department of Savannakhet. A few tour agencies offer packages that include an overnight stay at Dong Mouang.

The route may start from Monkey Forest at Dong Meuang village, one of the habitats of the rhesus macaque or monkey in Southeast Asia. These simians can be encountered at the natural tourist site established by the local government, at the spiritual houses situated in the inner part of the forest and at nearby temples.  Next, cross the river to Hotay Pidok or Buddhist Teaching Library. This was once a seminary for hundreds of monks and people interested in learning about Buddhism.  Buddhist teachings, in Sanskrit, written on palm leaves are preserved here in silk. The river can be crossed when the water level is low. When it is high, visitors should use the Monkey Forest intersection and look for sign posts to Hotay Pidok.

From Hotay Pidok, proceed to Wat Taleow in Ban Taleow. Built in 1918 under the leadership of the first abbot of the village, this temple was largely destroyed in American bombing in 1969.

Afterwards, proceed to Done Daeng Village and directly to the Turtle Lake. The 300 sq. metre lake is the natural habitat for an estimated 400-500 fresh water turtles of various sizes. The largest turtle recorded weighs 50 kg.

The final stop should be Ban Tansoum and Crocodile Lake, a newly-declared protected area for the Siamese crocodile, now on the red list of endangered species.

Ask the village chief for permission and he will arrange for somebody to accompany you to the area where these reptiles bask. The Siamese crocodile lives alone, rather than in groups and poses little danger to humans. The best time to see these cross is the late afternoon before sunset. This stop requires more time than the others on the circuit and so an overnight home stay is a good idea.

- By Fabworld & Joy Mahinay -

 


Pha That Ing Hang, a 4th century stupa, built on a site, where it is believed that the Buddha delivered his sermons and where some of his bones lie buried


Hotay Pidok or Buddhist Teaching Library, Dong Meuang village


Wat Taleow Temple in Ban Taleow

* Ban That - That Ing Hang Stupa
* Ban Dong Natad - Dong Na Tad Protected Area
* Champhone Circuit - Ban Dong Meuang- (Monkey Forest) - Hotay Pidok - Ban Taleow (Wat Taleow) Ban Done Daeng (Turtle Lake)- Ban Tansoum – (Crocodile Lake)

Getting there:

For advice on the easiest, or most convenient way to visit these places, contact the provincial tourism office and give them your location.
Savannakhet Provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department
Tel/fax: +856 (41) 212 755

 

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