Khammouane is located in central Laos bordering Bolikhamxay and Savannakhet Provinces. Khammouane covers about 16,000 square kilometers and has a population of approximately 330,000, mostly engaged in agriculture. The Mekong River Valley in the west is framed by the Annamite Mountain Range which separates Khammouane from Vietnam to the east.
The Limestone Mountains are honeycombed with countless caves, some of which for ages concealed forgotten treasures. The Buddha Cave (Tham Pa Fa) was just discovered in 2004 and houses 229 priceless Buddha images. Kong Lor Cave is perhaps the most well-known in the province. It is 7.5 km long and as high and wide as 90-100 m in some places. The province has three national protected areas (NPA) that cover an enormous area about 6,295 km2 in total. Phou Hin Poun NPA encompasses much of the limestone Forest and has 43 recorded species of bats. The Hin Namno NPA is located in the area where the Central Indochina Limestone meets the Annamite Chain, and as a result, has prominent limestone escarpments and caves. The most important area in terms of biodiversity. However is the Nakai-Nam Theun NPA with its complex range of habitats and newly discovered species of mammals such as the saola, giant muntjac, and Indochinese warty pig.
Locally made products include handmade incense sticks, naturally dyed cotton and silk weavings produced in the Kong Lor area. The province’s favorite snack, khaonome parn, is a soft sticky green and black colored sweet wrapped in banana leaves made with yellow soy beans and coconut in the middle. This treat was originally brought to Laos generations ago by Vietnamese settlers. Today, whenever Lao people visit Khammouane they are obliged to bring back a bag of khaonome parn to their friends and family.
Fertile land here is well suited to plantations of rice, cabbage, sugar cane, bananas, etc. A total population is made up of lowland and up-land Lao groups: Phuan, Tahoy, Kri, Katang etc. Thakhaek is the provincial capital, situated across the Mekong from Nakorn Phanom in Thailand. It also has much well preserved French colonial architecture similar to that found in Vientiane.
Inhabiting mainly lowland river valleys the Lao, Phouthai and other Tai-speaking peoples are the main ethnic groups in Khammouane. There are also Mekong or Bru people, a Mon-Khmer-speaking ethnic minority that make up 13% of the provincial population. In smaller numbers are the Kri, Nguan, Atel, Themarou, and Maleng who are mainly found in the mountainous eastern part of the province.
The vast forsest of the Nakai-Nam Theun National Protected Area are an important watershed that feed many Mekong tributaries as well as form the catchment area for Nam Theun 2, the largest hydropower project in Laos.