Khammouane’s Heritage Sites

Once a colonial Mekong River landing, Old Thakaek has transformed its 100-year-old French structures into guesthouses and restaurants, which huddle around the Night Market.

 

South of town, a massive statue of 8th century King Sikhot stands at the entrance to the ancient Sikhottabong Stupa. You’ll find a 75-metre-long stretch of the 9th-century Kampaeng Yak (Giant Wall), with its carefully carved, 5x1-metre blocks precisely assembled up to 16 metres high. The fortification climaxes at a 10-metre-tall bastion converted into a Catholic Church.

Kampaeng Yak Giant Wall: Try figuring out how the Sikhottabong Kingdom’s 9th-century workers constructed the 15-km-long Kampaeng Yak (Giant Wall). A 2-metre-high section of sandstone barricade of this unexplained historic marvel comes into view a few km north of Thakaek behind a petrol station on the west side of Route 13. But the real inspection starts about 8 km from town. Follow the “Giant Wall” sign down a dirt road to a 75-metre-long uninterrupted section of the sandstone stack.

Many of the carefully carved blocks run 5x1 metres in size, and are precisely assembled up to 16 metres high in some spots. No one knows the mason, who oversaw this 1,200-year-old feat, but a close-up examination begs the question, “How did he pull this off without a crane?” 

Legends relates tales of a race of giants, who erected a massive rock home that eventually crumbled. Some historians hold that the wall served as defence system and was created from an existing natural sandstone deposit. However, the Egyptian pyramid-like accuracy of the construction leans locals to believe the wall functioned as a dike to stem rising rainy-season waters and floods.

Further into the forest, the fortification climaxes at a 10-metre-tall bastion with an entrance portal. French colonials converted this end of the wall into a Catholic Church with a shrine to the Virgin Mary. Today, several rows of benches face the altar merged into Kampaeng Yak, and though Thakaek’s few Catholics continue to pray and hold wedding ceremonies here, most locals use it as a picnic spot.

Thakaek Architecture: Thakaek is rising from its 100-year-long dormancy as “Guest Landing”, for which it was named due to its past role as a French colonial pier and respite for foreign traders and travellers. Today, tiny Old Thakaek has awakened from its slumber, with its French structures converted into guesthouses, noodle shops, and small stores huddled around the Night Market. Take a walk around town…It feels like a page from a fairy tale.  

Bo Phontiu Tin Mines: Hinboun Town attracts explorers hunting lesser-known sites in the Phou Hin Poun NPA. For those who really want to delve deep into the NPA, journey to the Bo Phontiu Tin Mines just off the Hinboun-Ban Boneng Road. The French kept the facility in full swing during the 1920s and 1930s, before decades of war idled the pit. However, the mines are back in gear, though the still-standing French colonial equipment and buildings slingshot you back to yesteryear.

Location: Head about 50 km north of Thakaek on Route 13, and then follow the road to Ban Boneng Village. Guides and transportation are available in town.

 

Khammouane…The River Cave Capital

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