Discover the unseen splendour of central Laos
Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

The red glow of the sunset is alluring and the slow moving ripples of the Mekong River are as calming as breathing, which all make for a very special moment as a gentle breeze blows across from the other side of the river.
This is where people come to exercise and refresh their lungs with clean air after a long day at work.
I was recently one of the lucky visitors standing by the river to watch the sunset for a couple of hours during a three-day working visit to Thakhaek district in Khammuan province.
I had finished all my appointments on my last day before heading back to Vientiane, so I took the opportunity to gaze across the river as the giant red ball descended over the horizon.

Tham Nam Lord Xebangfai cave is one of the most stunning sights in Khammuan province.

The sun was an intense red and slid slowly down the sky, while a flock of birds headed home before darkness fell. People had gathered for different reasons, mostly to get some exercise, have dinner, and take selfies.
Thakhaek district has a very long history and I could spend a whole day talking about the events that occurred in this fascinating province in years gone by.
Selfies and food
I loved walking by the river to explore the beauty of the area and to see what the locals and foreign visitors were doing. Most of them were enjoying a walk, taking selfies, and then ending up at the food court.
The atmosphere was similar to that by the riverbank in Vientiane but there were fewer people and it was a lot more peaceful.
That is why I liked it so much, and the food on offer was much cheaper than in Vientiane while the taste was superb. A bowl of noodles with fish cost only 10,000 to 15,000 kip, which was quite affordable.
Many kinds of street food were on sale at the local centrepoint, with the dishes good both in terms of quality and quantity, while prices were reasonable.
I felt like my time in Thakhek district had passed all too quickly but I wanted to enjoy the night life in this attractive area by taking more pictures and trying several local dishes as well as getting to know a bit more about the town’s history.
My dinner ended up with khao piak pa (noodles with fish) after a vendor said this was a must-try dish when visiting the food court.
The noodles were similar in flavour to most of the noodles served up at other stalls but the taste of the fish was so good that I wanted to ask for another bowl, but my stomach was full.
Ideally located in central Laos, Khammuan has a lot of interesting food items. One of the most popular is bamboo shoot soup (nor mai ka sen soup, using one of the smaller types of bamboo) but it’s not on offer at every restaurant.
I spent only one night in Thakhek and checked in at a guesthouse where the room rate was just 60,000 kip.
That was fine because it was quite chilly so I didn’t need an air conditioned room which would have cost extra.
Khammuan authorities say Thakhek has 30 hotels while there are at least 100 guesthouses and resorts across the province.
President of the Hotel and Restaurant Group, Mr Kilamngeun Matmaninvong, said visitors need not worry about finding a room because there are many hotels, guesthouses and resorts at convenient locations. 
Landmarks and tourist attractions 
Khammuan has many stunning sights and 198 officially designated tourist attractions of which 139 are nature-based, 30 are of cultural interest and 29 are historical, according to the province’s tourism sector.
Many visitors head for the caves, of which the most well-known are Tham Nam Lord Xebangfai, Konglor, and Tham Nang Aen.
The government is now taking further steps to put Khammuan on the tourist map by submitting an application to UNESCO for the listing of the Hin Nam No National Protected Area as a world heritage site.
According to the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism, the Hin Nam No National Protection Area is home to over 40 mammal species, over 200 bird species, 25 bat species, 46 species of amphibians and reptiles, over 100 fish species, and more than 520 plant species.
This is without doubt an area of great biodiversity and is worthy of protection.
This year Khammuan province expects to welcome more than 560,000 visitors and is eyeing a 10 percent increase in revenue generation.
Last year, more than 464,500 people visited the province, generating more than 338 billion kip in the first 11 months of 2017.
How to get there 
Khammuan province is about 360km south-east of Vientiane and can easily be reached by at least four hours drive on Road No. 13 South.
If you want to go by bus, look for one departing from the Southern Bus Terminal on the 450 Year Road in Vientiane.
However you choose to travel, you can be sure of an amazing trip!

By Bounfaeng Phaymanivong
(Latest Update March 3, 2018)

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