This ex-Indochinese trading post is a delightful melange of crumbling French villas and warped Chinese merchant's shopfronts, with an easy riverside charm which, despite the bridge over to nearby Thailand, shows few signs of change. It's from here that you begin the Loop, a three-day motorbike journey through shape-shifting landscapes, and you can also use Tha Khaek (ທ່າແຂກ) as a base from which to make organised day trips to Tham Kong Lor. There are more than a dozen other caves nearby, some with swimmable lagoons, that can be accessed by scooter or tuk-tuk.
While you shouldn't expect Luang Prabang levels of sophistication from Tha Khaek, you will find a historically appealing old town and slice of authentic Lao life. The epicentre (if you can call it that) of the old town is the modest Fountain Sq at the western end of Th Kuvoravong near the river.