Xekong (also sometimes Sekong, Lao) is a province of Laos, located in the south-east of the country. Xekong was created in 1984, when it was split off from Salavanh Province. It is bordered by Vietnam to the east, Attapeu Province to the south, Salavanh Province to the north, and Champasak Province to the west. Xekong is the second smallest province in Laos (7,665 km2); it also has the lowest population (about 83,000) and the lowest population density of any province. Xekong is split administratively into four districts: Thateng on the Bolaven Plateau, Lamam in the lowland plain, and Dakchung and Kaleum in the mountainous areas bordering Vietnam. Xekong is among the most remote areas of Laos; even some of its largest villages are virtually inaccessible by road for at least half of the year. The eastern districts of Dakchung and Kaleum, in particular, are characterized by mostly mountainous terrain which is rugged and difficult to access. This isolation has meant that forest cover, biodiversity, and ethnic traditions have changed less in recent years than in other areas in Laos. However, the province has become much less isolated in recent years, with the upgrading of a major road up from the Mekong valley city of Pakse, plus two major road projects connecting Xekong to Vietnam to the east. Road infrastructure backed by the Vietnamese is part of a regional development strategy spearheaded by Hanoi called the Development Triangle Initiative, aiming to develop links between Vietnam and neighboring underdeveloped provinces in Cambodia and Laos.
Heavily destroyed during the war, Tha Teng today is nothing more than a truck and coffee stop for travellers on the way to somewhere else. It does however offer accommodation and a few standard eating options, with a Kaysone bust also here for those collecting pictures of them countrywide. While the views of the surrounds are pretty and the Lao coffee particularly cheap, it is best to push on when possible.
It's pretty easy to get your bearings in Tha Teng. The dusty central market is hard to miss, and that's it -- that's the centre of town. Just beyond the market is a roundabout -- the road heading north turns to dirt shortly thereafter, but it's still fairly decent -- plans are underway to have it paved by the end of 2007. The road heading east from the roundabout goes directly to Sekong.
According to one of our sources, there is a waterfall in the area worth visiting which is most conveniently done from Tha Teng itself. It's called Tamorhon Maihea, near the village of Ban Sen Thai, which should be located along a road that heads south-east from a point along the Paksong-Tha Teng road, just outside of Tha Teng. The trip can also include a visit to the Katou Cultural Ethnic Village (Kandonmay Village) on route 16 -- the turn off should be about 15km from Tha Teng, then 4km down a dirt road.