The Khammouane Provincial Tourism Department has begun promoting "The Loop", a flexible 400-plus-km circuits that starts and ends in Thakhaek, and allows you to set the pace when taking in the provincial highlights.

"The Loop"

You can easily tackle The Loop on a motor scooter or larger vehicles as the road is paved except a 57 km stretch from Tha Lang to Lak Sao, which is currently under construction. Small town guesthouses restaurants dot The Loop, opening up overnight options, and petrol is plentiful.

After seeing the sites such as the Sikhottabong Stupa and the Great Wall in and around Thakhaek, The Loop begins on Route 12 East with attractions close to Thakhaek, including Buddha Cave and the Nong Tao Lake area, the Elephant Cave lookout, Xiang Lieb Cave, Tha Farang, and Nang Ene Cave.

The Loop veers north onto Route 8B away from Route 12 just past the Mahaxay junction, and starts a lazy, twisting climb between rice paddies up the Nakai Plateau, as massive limestone outcrops begin dominating the backdrop.

A powerful rush of water, channeled through a cobblestone-banked river, soon appears, the monitored flow from the Nam Theun 2 dam, which houses an expansive visitor center displaying information on the dam, its environmental impact, village relocation program, and animal rescue project.

The Loop continues along the dam's reservoir to the top of the plateau (600 m) at Nakai Town, which offers several guesthouses and restaurants that mostly cater to Lao and Vietnamese patrons. This district center also hosts a sizeable morning market and serves a as a gateway to the surrounding ethnic villages, such as Ban Songkham and its Tai Sam weavers.

After a further 20 km at Tha Lang, a bridge crosses the reservoir, where a pleasant restaurant serving Western food and offering bungalows and activities such as trekking, fishing, and boating greets travelers.

The Loop's next 57 km are currently rough, but this ends at Lak Sao on Route 8, the road to Ban Nahin and the turnoff to the province's famed Konglor Cave, and its slate of eco-activities including the boat ride through the 7.5-km natural tunnel, and a range of overnight options: eco-lodges, village lodge, and homestays.

Back on Route 8 West, The Loop continues to Vieng Kham the Route 13 turnoff, and the 105-km run back to Thakaek.