Languid, time-trapped and ghostly quiet during the sweltering days that batter the old city's plasterwork, Savannakhet is a beguiling mix of yesteryear coupled with increasingly modern commerce. The best it has to offer is the historic quarter with its staggering – and that might just be the right adjective – display of decaying early 20th century architecture. Leprous and listing, these grand old villas of Indochina's heyday now lie unwanted like aged dames crying out for a makeover. There's little to do in town but amble the riverfront and plonk yourself down in a local noodle shop or one of a clutch of stylish restaurants and bijou cafes that are steadily growing in number.
That said there's loads to do nearby and Savannakhet has a very dedicated tourist information centre and eco-guide unit who have myriad intrepid trips into the nearby NPAs.
Savannakhet is on a simple north–south grid and although large is pretty easy to navigate on foot.