Xieng Khouang province in Central Laos is home to the Plain of Jars that is included on many Laos tour packages. Phonsavanh is the capital and was built to replace the old Xieng Khouang which was destroyed during the Second Indochina War. The Plain of Jars has arguably the best climate in Laos although winter temperatures can drop a little because of the altitude.The countryside is green hills and pine forests traditional wooden houses in the villages offering plenty of colour.
There are various ethnic groups; the Phuan, the Hmong, the Khmu and Tai Dam. Minority groups include Vietnamese and Laotian Chinese. The range of groups adds to the activity within the province, especially with festivals and local crafts.
Xieng Khouang is certainly one of the most well-developed provinces as far as tourists are concerned and any holiday in Laos should include at least some time there.
How to get there
Phonsavan's Xiang Khouang Airport has flights to Vientiane and in high season the numbers increase. Likewise there are direct flights to and from Hanoi and Vinh in Vietnam. This means that Xieng Khouang is an ideal inclusion in Indochina tour packages.
Bus travel is well organised and includes a bus from Hanoi. Those on organised Laos travel packages will obviously have all arrangements made for them.
Best time to visit
There is a wet and dry season with the monsoon rains coming between May and October. However there is no real reason not to visit any time of the year and this Laos travel guidecertainly would not suggest that those wet months mean that visitors should stay away.
Things to see and do
The Indochinese war sites are an attraction.
• Xieng Khouang was the scene of many ground battles and aerial bombardments. This was the home of Pathet Lao forces and their Vietnamese allies and was therefore a target for American bombs.
• The landscape is pockmarked with craters in places while war scrap has been used in local architecture along the road heading north.Pho Kod War Memorial is 20 km from Phonsavan along that road.
• Caves were used for shelter during the bombing; hospitals, schools included. Weapons and medical supplies were also stored in the caves, two of which are open for public viewing.Tham Piu Cave and Tham Xang Cave are worth spending times to see and the road journey through the great countryside adds to the experience.
• Nong Tang is a natural lake flanked by limestone cliffs where locals fish and people come to picnic.
• There are Hot Springs near Muang Kham. The big hot spring Baw Nyai is now a significant resort with plenty of chance to walk in the forests but not to swim in the pool created by a spring.
• Tad Ka Waterfall in Nong Het is very impressive waterfall that flows all year round with over 100 metres of run. Likewise the waterfall in Tajok offers great views and a wonderful jungle trail to walk.
Local fresh food markets are always interesting places and actually do reveal a little about the lives of locals. The climate allows this region to grow some things not found elsewhere in Laos; mushrooms, peaches, plums and passion fruit.
There are several hotels and guest houses in Phonsavan alone while the popularity of the Province means that there is accommodation elsewhere in the Province, largely guesthouses. Those on organised tours have all arrangements made for them. There are some nice hotels that remain fairly inexpensive because Laos is not a place where tourists will find high costs for basic services.