Welcome to Xieng Khoang!
Located 400 kilometers northeast of Vientiane Capital, Xieng Khouang Province is on the mountainous Tran-ninh plateau. It is set at an altitude of more than 1,000 meters above sea level and enjoys mild temperatures for most of the year, although winters can be surprisingly cold. Kham District is a low-lying basin set at around 600 meters above sea level.
Xieng Khouang enjoys a remarkable geographical location, surrounded by mountain ranges, with Phou Bia (2,700 meters) the highest peak in Lao PDR. The province sits at the crossroads of traffic from central Vietnam and northeast Thailand. Historically, these two powerful neighbours-Siam and Vietnam have vied for control of its soil.
Until briefly after World War II, the French used Xieng Khouang Town, present-day Muang Khoun town, as their provincial capital. A few ruinous colonial public buildings remain to this day, such as the governor’s residence, church and French school.
PLAIN OF JARS
The Plain of Jars is considered the most distinctive and enigmatic of all Laos attractions. The large area around Phonsavan, the main city of Xieng Khouang Province is dotted with stone jars but no one has a clear idea as to why they are there. The mysterious jars were carved from both sandstone and granite in various sizes from very small to about 3.5 metres high and are thought to be more than 2,000 years old. Legend has it that they were made to store rice wine while some believe they were for storing the dead. Until today the function of the jars is still disputed. Of all the many jar sites, the three most popular ones to visit are known as Site 1, 2 and 3. The main reason is because they are safe from UXO (unexploded ordinance). Still, visitors are advised to walk only on the known routes as Laos is considered the most heavily bombed/ mined country in the world. During the Vietnam War this area got hit hard and some of the bombs did not go off.
KHOUN: THE OLD PHUAN KINGDOM
Witness the ancient Tai Phuan Kingdom at Khoun Town, just 36 km southeast of Phonsavanh on Lao Route 1 D. “Muang Phouan” prospered as a trade centre, but in the 14 century, the LanXang Kingdom moved in. Over the centuries, Muang Phuan become the centre for opulent Buddhist art and the architecture. Then the French arrived, adding a colonial touch. Though bandits and bombs destroyed plenty, you can bike or walk to see leftover structures around Khoun Town. Check out a French colonial wall just off Route 1D, and near town an easy trail leads to Vat Phiawat’s sitting Buddha, built in 1564. Khoun Town’s most sacred temple, Vat Si Phoum, was leveled, though locals rebuilt it ad close by, examine a one-majestic French colonial hospital. Just north town, That Poun stand atop a knoll, and is said to over Buddha’s ashes. Nearby, the base of the 500-plus-year-old That Chompeth holds its ground on a shrubby hill.
Ban Nyai: Hot springs can be visited in the vicinity of Muang Kham off Route 7. The big hot spring Ban Nyai, 67 km from Phonsavanh, has been developed as a resort with bungalows and indoor bathing facilities. You can walk through the forest to the spring source, but swimming in the pool is not possible. The Jar Site of Ban Nam Hom is just a 2 km walk away.
Ban Xang: Ban Xang village and hot springs are located around 50km north of Phonsavan and just 3km east of Kham District Town, off paved Route 7. You can soak in pools that mix the hot springs with the cooler water from the Mat River, and go for an herbal steam bath. See Khmu and Tai Phuan handicrafts being produced and eat at the local restaurant. Overnight accommodation is available in the village tourist lodge. You can also embark on a challenging 3 to 4 hour trek along the river valley and up Xang Mountain to Plain of Jars Site 42.
Nestled in spectacular limestone karts this impressive waterfall run down in cascading step for more than 100 meters, alternating with sleep falls, and with abundant water flowing all year round. Location: Take Route 7 from Kham to Nong Het. Turn right at KhangPhanieng Village. Follow dirt road for 3 km, then take the trail to the lift. Walk another 30 minutes to reach the top of the fall.
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