Before it was renamed Salavan (Sarawan in Thai) by the Siamese in 1828, this area was a Champasak kingdom outpost known as Muang Mam and inhabited mostly by Mon-Khrner minorities. The provincial capital of Salavan was all but destroyed in the Indochina War, when it bounced back and forth between Royal Lao Army and Pathet Lao occupation. The rebuilt town is a collection of brick and wood buildings - only the post office shows evidence of the French era.

For the most part Salavan serves as a supply centre for fanners 'in surrounding districts. A large sheet-metal plant opened on the southern outskirts of Saluvan providing the town's first manufacturing jobs. Information You can change US dollars or Thai baht for kip (cash only) at the Lao May Bank a little west of the market. In front of the post and telecommunications office is a card phone.

Places to Stay & Eat

Saise Guest House Dorm beds with ran US$2.50 doubles with air-con" with- out/with bath US$4.40/5. The government-owned Saise is a cluster of three buildings with three- and five-bed dorm rooms. located about 2km from the bus terminal. Although it's no longer the only accommodation option in town, you wouldn't know it from the condition of the shared bathrooms here.

Sinsamay Guest House Rooms with 2 beds & fan/air-con US$3.15/4.40, VIP rooms with air-con & bath, TV & fridge US$5.65. Unlike the Saise Guest House, this hotel offers well kept toilet/bathing facilities.

Thipphophone Guest House Rooms with fan/air-con US$3.15/4.40, with air-con & bath US$5.65. Though the prices are the same, the rooms here are more basic than at the Sinsamay.

Chindavone Guest House (211065, just east of Thipphaphone Guest House) Rooms with fan US$3.75-4.40, with fan & bath US$5.65, large bungalows with bath US$6.25. This guesthouse was still under construction when we stopped by, but looks as though it will open soon. The three bungalows out the back have large rooms with attached bath. Some English is spoken here.

Nong Vilaivane (21/0/4, opposite the Finance Dept] Dishes US $1.25-1.90. This nicely maintained place with bamboo alls and ceiling fans is the best restaurant in town. The menu includes Lao, Vietnamese and Chinese dishes. The restaurant also sells weavings from Sekong. There are several noodle shops in the vicinity of the market, plus .a small market along a side street near the main market with pre-cooked Lao food.

Getting There & Away

Air Lao Aviation lists a fare of US$91 to Salavan from Vientiane or US $44 from Savannakhet. In reality service was suspended in 1995 for the upgrading of Salavan'sairstrip and has yet tore sume,

Bus & Truck There are four regular pas- senger trucks or buses to Salavan from Pakse's Km 8 bus queue in Champasak Province. Buses (four to five hours) depart- ing at 7am, 11am and 1.30pm travel via Rte 23 through Muang Tha Taeng. The 9am bus uses Rte 20 (one of the best interprovincial routes in the country) through Muang LaoNgam (21/2 to three hours). The fare for both routes is US $I.25. Buses to/from Sekong (US $I.25, 21/2 hours, 90km) also pass through Muang Tha Taeng; see the Sekong section later in this chapter for details. From Sekong you can continue on to Attapeu.

During the dry season you can take Rte 23 north via Tumlan to Rte 9 in the Sepon area. If you're thinking that Salavan might be a shortcut for reaching Lao Bao from far- ther south, it may look shorter on 'a map but Rte 23 north from Salavan is in very poor Condition: the fords are a particular problemas the French-built concrete bridges were all bombed out during the Indochina War. It is, however, a very interesting route from the perspective of those interested in the local Austro-Asiatic tribes.