Although Savannakhet has a handful of tourist attractions, its main strength actually lies in eco-tourism, especially trekking through its provincial protected area, Dong Natad. A journey through remote villages is an unforgettable experience. Aside from observing wild animals in the forest, visitors will learn about herbs and forest flora that villagers use for various purposes.
An exciting adventure on dirt paths along the Laos and Vietnam borders, the Ho Chi Min Trail tour is also worth checking out. Nothing beats Laos massage after a tiring day and simply people watching and observing the easy going local lifestyle more than makes up for the area’s lacks of sites to visit.
Dong Natad Trek
A major protected area trek at Dong Natad. Trek into the forest close to Savannakhet Town. Just 15 kilometres from the centre of the town and 11 kilometres past the Mekong Bridge to the north, across from the salt mines. One can observe birds, small wild animals like gigantic spiders and red ants that can eat out poison if placed on a snakebite.
Visit the nearby salt mines where one can learn about salt processing before being sold to the factory. There is also a sacred lake, and the beauty of That Ing Hang Stupa is surely a treat after a long trek. Dong Natad forest is certainly the best option for a one- or a two-day trek.
Don Phu Vieng Trek
A bit further into the NBCA’s area, at Dong Sakee Forest, visitors will also learn about an ‘oil-tree’ which, when cut, produces a liquid that is flammable and used by the local villagers at night. In addition, discover the ‘Pepsi-tree’, which dispenses bubbly water – like Pepsi. Of course, visitors are welcome to taste it! A highlight at Don Phu Vieng is the chance to see rare Douc Langurs and hornbills.
Visitors also get the chance to learn about the use of natural products such as edible leaves, herbs and bush fruits along the trekking trail. Don Phu Vieng trek usually lasts three to four days and visitors stay at surrounding villages, where dinner is prepared with the traditional Bai Cii ceremony.
Eco-Tourism Treks at Dong Natad
Dong Natad National Provincial Protected Area (NBCA), the most famous eco-tourism location in Laos, has a number of forests which are perfect for an adventure trek. Day trips are available while overnight stays offer yet more in term of homestays, local costumes, and vigorous hiking. However, it is recommended to book through organised tours with help from local English-speaking guides. Highlights of the National Protected Area are Dong Natad, Don Phuo Vieng, and Phu Xang Hae.