The province of Xieng Khouang located in northwestern Laos spreads on the area of flat plateau, where borders with Vietnam. Surround the area are rolling hills and mountains. To the people of Laos, Xieng Khouang is best known for the mysterious Plain of Jars. Additionally, Xieng Khouang - the former capital and trading hub of Muang Phuan - owns a number of interesting historical destinations. The city also offers nice trekking points and be a home for many ethnic groups.
2. BEST TIME TO VISIT
There are two main seasons in the area: dry and rainy.
Monsoon occurs between May and October. This is a perfect time to contemplate waterfalls with the highest water rate.
The dry season starts from November to April. North of Laos is much cooler than in the south, plus its high altitude, the temperature will go easy around the year.
Basically, Xieng Khouang can be visited anytime around the year, based on tourist’s interest.
3. THINGS TO DO
Explore the Plains of Jars
The intrigue Plain of Jars is dated back to 500 BC when humanity stepped to the Iron Age. There are 3 Sites of Plain of Jar. Site 1 is located 15 km from southwest of Phonsavan district and is the biggest site with over 300 Stone Jars, which are in various sizes and shapes. Some can be over 2 meters high. People and the archaeologists believed that these jars had a close connection to Phuan people and were built to store rice wine or collect rainwater. At the entrance of Site one, information and artifacts about the war and the plain history will be provided. Inside the site, one can observe the bomb craters, foxholes, trenches dotted to the land surface, which express the sorrow memories about the war in the 60s. At the time, the area was considered to be safe from UXO (unexploded ordinances) but make sure not to walk too far from the track. Handicrafts are available at Community Handicrafts Shop.
Site 2 and 3 are far from Phonsavan, located on the hilltop, provide views of farmlands and villages. It is a bumpy trip through dirt and stone paths to reach those destinations.
Discover the Old Phoun Kingdom
The ancient Tai Phoun kingdom is now called Phuan Town, it was the trading hub in the 12th century and possessed remarkable religious and colonial structures, such as Buddhist statues, temples, and French buildings. You will have a chance to catch the most photogenic place of That Foun and That Chompet stupas. That Foun temple – the over 500 years old, is lying on the green grass covered and be impressed with its pyramid shapes. The temple of That Chompet was built at the same time as That Foun temple and nearly destroyed in the 1960s; though, its ancient outlook and remains are still attractive.
Relax at Tad Ka Waterfall
The waterfall is located near Tajok village, 32 km to the north of Phosavan. The cascading waterfall flows through the scenic old jungles, which is relaxing when trekking through the dirt paths alongside. Tad Ka is a popular picnic spot for the locals, especially during Laos New Year Holiday. To tourists, it is nice to spend a little time to feel the fresh and cool air around the waterfall and considered this as a goal after trekking.
History time at MAG UXO Visitor Center
This center provides the stories of wartime and ordinances that didn’t explode. It is well-known to many people that Laos is one of the most heavily bombed countries. In this center, they offer images, writings, and photos that show locals suffering and their losses when the American dropped more than 270 million bombs, from 1964 – 1973. They also keep the remains of tanks, cannons, guns and various kinds of unexploded bombs that found around the region. Although the war has ended for decades, Laotians still live in awareness of the hidden danger of unfounded bombs.
Visit the Wat Phia Wat
It is true that the giant Buddha statue that sitting among the ruins had stolen the lure because whenever people mention about Wat Phia Wat, they will remember the gigantic Buddha figure. Wat Phia Wat is said to have been built in the 1300s, through a long period of being damaged, destroyed, especially in the Indochina War and the American bombing, the temple was more shattered. Today, the statue is the last to survive. With moss-covered and cracks, they just perfectly enhance the ancient beauty.
Enjoy the ambiance at Nong Tang Lake
Nong Tang lake located 48 km away from Phousavan district, among mountain ranges. It is a beautiful natural lake flanked by limestone cliffs and adorned with local villages alongside the river bank. Mountain ranges are what complete the stunning picture. Enjoy the peaceful, fresh ambiance and the pleasing view of locals catching fishes when having a picnic on the green lawn. In the same visit, tourists can plan to check several ruined temples around the lake that existed centuries ago; for instance the Wat Pong, Wat Xieng Na, and Mang Stupa. Moreover, the Tham Pa Buddha cave nearby is amazing with the gorgeous view provided and the underground maze.
Get your hands dirty at Mulberry Organic Silk Farm
The Mulberry Silk Farm in Phonsavan province was established in 1993 with the area spread to 45 hectares. Since the establishing day, the farm has successfully completed the mission of producing high quality of Lao weaving silk, created opportunities for the indigenous families of Laotians to earn a living. Tourists coming to the organic farm are allowed to have a look around the area where silkworms are raised and observing the process of loom weaving. Moreover, the farm would offer a tour guide to support tourists during the sightseeing. If you want to bring some items home, stop by the farm’s gift shop for colorful local weaving silk, cushion covers, scarves and so on. Restaurants with local dishes are available with specialties of the Laotians. Rooms are on service for overnight on the farm.
4. HOW TO GET THERE
Domestic Airport is available in Xieng Khouang province, in Phonsavan district. Tourists can book a flight straight to Xieng Khouang. The flight is operated from Vientiane to Xieng Khouang with many turns per week.
Traveling by bus is also a good option to get to Xiang Khouang. From Vientiane, it takes 10-12 hours. The bus trip from Luang Prabang takes 8 hours. The bus trip from Vang Vieng takes 7-8 hours. Tourists can also reach Xieng Khouang from the bus terminal of Vinh city and Hanoi city of Vietnam. Tickets are from 7-12 USD.
5. DOS AND DON’TS
- Do always prepare Kip or USD when buying something or paying for any kind of services. Lao Kip and USD are common currencies that Laotian would accept to trade goods. A credit card can only be used in chic restaurants, supermarkets, hotels. Cash is vital at local markets, local services, entrance tickets, etc.
- Do learn Laotian greeting and some basic sentences of their language. Many locals do not speak any other language but their own.
- Do hire a motorbike to go around. With a motorbike, transferring has never become so easy. Most hotels and guesthouses provide the service, the hiring fee is about 5-7 USD a day.
Ask for the price first before purchasing.
- Don't involve conflicts with locals.
- Don't travel alone or explore somewhere that is off the track.