Dominated by the Mekong, the flat, riverine terrain of Laos’ southernmost region is prodigiously fertile, though seen by comparatively few foreigners until recently, when a cluster of ecolodges, boutique hotels and – crucially – a luxury river cruiser made travel in this unspoiled enclave more comfortable. The majority of TransIndus clients who pause here, do so on the popular Vat Phou River Cruise, in order to visit the amazing ruins of Vat Phou, a sprawling, stepped Khmer-Hindu temple at the foot of Mount Phou Kao.
The UNESCO World Heritage site retains some exquisite stone carvings of Lord Shiva and apsaras and, a shrine room in which the Shiva Linga is bathed by the waters of a natural spring. A flight of time-worn steps lead to the top of the adjacent sacred hill for a mesmerizing view over the temple and ancient reservoirs nearby. The easiest route into the region is to fly to the town of Pakse, a colonial trade hub at the confluence of the Mekong and Se Dong Rivers, founded in 1905 by the French. The town itself holds few sights of note but boasts a particularly lively market area, and pleasant waterfront promenade.