Village in Bolaven Plateau Region

The area east of Attapeu was an integral part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail – two main branches, the Sihanouk Trail continuing south into Cambodia and the Ho Chi Minh Trail veering east towards Vietnam, split here – and as such was heavily bombed during the war. One of the few visible reminders of this time is a Russian-made surface-to-air missile (SAM) set up in the village of Pa-Am (aka Ban Sombun) by the North Vietnamese to defend against aerial attack.

It has survived the scrap hunters and, by government order, is now on display, surrounded by a barbed-wire fence held up, in part, by cluster-bomb casings.

Next to the missile is a small handicraft shop with textiles and baskets woven by local Talieng women. If you drive around the village you might get lucky and see some women weaving.

Pa-Am is 16km past Saisettha (follow the signs for San Xai off Rte 18B) and the two villages make a great half-day trip from Attapeu if you have your own wheels. There is no public transport to Pa-Am.

North of Pa-Am the road quickly turns rocky and continues on to Chaleun Xai, 38km north, then northwest to Sekong. This route has been improved somewhat, but it's still rough and recommended for dry-season travel only.