Houaphanh Province in eastern Laos has an extensive border with Vietnam. It is typified by rugged terrain with forest, especially in its west. It covers 16,500 square kilometres and within its borders that is a great deal to interest those on holiday in Laos. Centuries ago this was the Bon man Kingdom before the Vietnamese invaded to be included in the Dai Viet Kingdom. It remained in Vietnam hands until the arrival of the French in 1839.
It is one of the poorest provinces in Laos with infant mortality, clean water and medical care real issues. Bamboo is important but production is underdeveloped and disorganised. Rice, corn, sesame and soya bean are among the crops being produced.
Several villages in the Xamneua and Xamtai districts are being encouraged to change from producing opium to equally profitable but less harmful products.
How to get there
There are domestic flights from Vientiane into Xam Neua while there are regular bus services; Vientiane is around 20 hours away and Luang Prabang 15. Nam Soi is the border crossing into Vietnam and those on Indochina tour packages can be arranged using plane or bus.
Best time to visit
Fewer people come on Laos travel packages during the monsoon season encompassing May to the end of October. Tourism does not stop completely during the rains but road travel is sometimes difficult in extreme conditions.
Things to see and do
Laos tour packagesconcentrate on the environmental features of the Province:
• The Viengxay caves were used by the Pathet Lao in the 1950s and 1960s. Tham Than Souphanouvong Cave was used by the leader who later became President. Kaysone Phomvihane hid from 1964 as did President Khamtay Siphandone.
• The Hintang Archaeological Park is an important pre-historic site with standing megaliths and quite rightly has become a UNESCO World Heritage site
• The Nam Et-Phou LoueyNational Biodiversity Conservation Area and the Nam Xam National Biodiversity Conservation Area are within the Province which is also well known for its birdlife. The great hornbill and Blyth's kingfisher are the highlights.
• Tat Saloei (Phonesai) Waterfall is south of the main settlement, Xam Neau while Nameuang Hot Springs is located in the midst of a valley of rice paddy fields.
This Laos travel guide certainly recommends a visit to Houaphanh and those on organised tours will have all arrangements made for them. Options are limited but there are some nice guesthouses.