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 Savannakhet’s stupa, sauropods set to draw devotees, travellers to fete
Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and photographs inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

Numerous entertaining activities, taking in the nation’s nature, culture and history, are being readied for visitors following the launch of Visit Laos Year 2018 last month at the That Luang Festival.
One such event that is sure to please is Savannakhet province’s annual That Inhang Stupa festival, one of the diverse range of activities bringing more people to see and experience this part of Laos.
The stupa is located in That village, Kaysone Phomvihane district and has become a popular tourist attraction for Savannakhet province.
According to traditional accounts, That Inghang is a sacred stupa and believed to be the resting site of a relic in the form of one of Buddha’s bones.

That Inghang Stupa.

It is a significant place for Buddhist devotees and is registered as a National Treasure.
It was built about 450 years ago during the reign of King Marukhanakhone to commemorate what local devotees believe to be Buddha’s visit to the site.
In addition to the stupa, Savannakhet province is well known for being the birthplace and hometown of national hero Kaysone Phomvihane.
It is also known as the Land of Dinosaurs, home to the nation’s most significant repository of the fossils of the extinct giants, or ‘big lizard bones’ as they may be translated directly from Lao.
The fossilised skeletal remains of Pode, Iguanodon and Sauropode dinosaurs were discovered in Tang Vay village, Xonbouly district.
Combining this rich legacy of natural, cultural and historical wonders is the aim of the organisers of this year’s festival, set to be held from November 29 to December 3.
Several activities are ready to go ahead, Deputy Director of the Savannakhet provincial Information, Culture and Tourism Department, Mr Khamsith Phommachanh, told Vientiane Times on Thursday.
“Activities to celebrate this year’s Inhang stupa festival are similar to last year with a focus on local traditions as well as shows to promote Visit Laos Year 2018,” he said.
“During the five-day festival, visitors can enjoy a trade fair which will chiefly exhibit products from each district of the province, along with cultural shows on the main stage.”
The event is set to give a taster in preparation for the biggest ever Inhang stupa festival being planned for December 2018.
“However, the biggest event to mark Visit Laos Year in our province will be the That Phon stupa festival in Xayphouthong district in the fourth week of January,” Mr Khamsith said.
“During the opening ceremony, the provincial governor will announce our activities for Visit Laos Year.”
Thousands of tourists visit the stupa every week, mostly to pay respect and pray while others come to learn about its role in the region’s history.
The Buddha is believed to have delivered a sermon at the site and later took a rest under a “hang” tree, leading to the name That Inhang.
Something to know before visiting is the culturally sensitive issue of dress code.
Men should be dressed in modest attire, while women are required to wear a traditional sinh (Lao skirt) to enter the site.
Such traditional wear is available for purchase next to the entrance.
Outside festival times, the stupa welcomes visitors during daylight hours from 8am to 6pm.
The easiest way to get there is to head out along Road No. 9 for about 12km and turn left at the police post, and then drive straight for about another 3km at which point you will arrive at the stupa.
The event comes as the country’s total number of tourist sites hits 2,104, comprising 1,194 natural, 628 cultural and 282 historic sites, according to last year’s statistics from the Tourism Development Department of the Ministry of Information, Culture and Tourism.
Of these, Savannakhet boasts some 74 natural, 29 cultural and 14 historic sites.
The number of visitors to Laos topped 4.2 million last year, a decrease of 10 percent from 2015.
This drew revenue of US$724 million, an increase of 4 percent compared to the previous year.
Savannakhet province welcomed about 866,630 visitors in 2016, a decrease from the 1.1 million people recorded in 2015.
Provinces around the country are preparing activities for Visit Laos Year 2018 to promote the many tourist sites and attractions on offer.
With the government keen to see more tourists from at home and abroad, tourism authorities are making a concerted effort to attract more visitors for longer while committing to hard work in improving services and infrastructure.

 

By Sisay Vilaysack
(Latest Update November 27, 2017)


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