in Bolaven Plateau Region

Though it's hard to justify a trip all the way to Ta-Oy on its own, it makes a good add-on if you'd like to turn a half-day trip to Toumlan into a full-day journey. The route here crosses a remote mountainous area with few villages, and – though most of the area has been intensively logged – there are still some beautiful moments. Ta-Oy was once an important marker on the Ho Chi Minh Trail and two major branches split off here.

This is a centre for the Tahoy ethnic group, who number around 30,000 spread across the eastern areas of Salavan and Sekong Provinces. Other groups in this region include Katang, Pako, Kado and Kanay. The Tahoy live in forested mountain valleys and, like many Mon-Khmer groups in southern Laos, they practise a combination of animism and shamanism; during village ceremonies, the Tahoy put up diamond-patterned bamboo totems to warn outsiders not to enter. Keep your eyes peeled for some of their enormous longhouses in and around town. You'll see some in a village just before crossing the large bridge into Ta-Oy. Down below the town, upstream from the bridge, are beautiful rapids that can be easily reached by a short footpath.

Ta-Oy is 80km from Salavan on a good paved road, and you could double the distance and continue to Samouy near the Vietnamese border. Both are small but developed towns with a few guesthouses as well as places to eat and fuel up.