Languid, time-trapped and somnolent during the sweltering days that batter the old city's plasterwork, Savannakhet (ສະຫວັນນະເຂດ) is an attractive blend of past and present Laos. The highlight is the historic quarter with its impressive 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 wander the riverfront and cool off in one of a clutch of stylish restaurants and bijou cafes that are steadily growing in number.
That said, there's plenty to do nearby and Savannakhet has a dedicated Tourist Information Centre, which can help you plan intrepid trips into the nearby NPAs.
Savannakhet is on a simple north–south grid and is pretty easy to navigate on foot. Be aware, however, that there are some notoriously aggressive street dogs, best avoided by simply crossing to the far side of the street.