Laos – a beautiful and peaceful country, fascinates visitors with solemn temples, beautiful waterfalls, uniquely shaped Buddha statues, and a friendly, hospitable smile of the people. In addition to famous destinations like Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Vang Vieng, Xieng Khouang Province is also a place worth visiting. This province is located on the Xiang Khouang plateau in the northeast of the country. Originally known as Muang Phouan, the current capital of the province is Phonsavan.
Xieng Khouang is best known for the fascinating “Plain of Jars”. This province has borders of 100km in the northwest with Luang Prabang, 160km in the northeast with Houaphan, 160km in the east with Nghe An province in Vietnam with, 70km in the southeast with Bolikhamsai and in the southwest with Vientiane (about more than 400 km away). Mountain is the main topography of Xieng Khouang with 90% mountain, 8% highland, and the rest 2% is plain. Apart from the floodplains, the country’s largest flat land is located on the Xiangkhouang Plateau. This area is characterized by gentle hills and grassland. Xieng Khouang is also one of the most important corn-growing areas in Laos.
2.Best time to visit Xieng Khouang
Xieng Khouang has two seasons: dry and rainy. The dry season lasts from November to April with an average temperature of around 17.7 °C and the rainy season is from May to October with an average temperature of 23.6 °C. Xieng Khouang is a province with a warm climate and plays an important role in the agricultural production, industry, and energy of Laos.
The best time to visit Xieng Khouang is from November to February. This is the cool season in Laos when the weather gets cooler. Tourists visiting during these months should be sure to bring warm clothing. Xieng Khouang is a highland plain so while the weather is pleasantly cool most of the time, it gets quite cold in the early morning and night.
3. What to visit in Xieng Khouang
Xieng Khouang consists of six districts: Muang Khoune, Muang Phonsavanh, Muang Nong Hai, Muang Kham, Muang Mork, and Muang Phou Koud with a lot of amazing attractions.
3.1. Plain of Jars
Plain of Jars is the most renowned attraction in Xieng Khouang. The large area around Phonsavan is littered with thousands of stone jars in various sizes, from quite small to huge (up to 3.5 meters high). Nobody knows when these stone jars appeared. The Laotians believe that more than 2,000 years ago people made these jars to store rice wine or bury the dead. So far it is still controversial. Nowadays, visitors can only visit sites 1, 2, and 3 because the rest of it was badly damaged during the Vietnam War. Furthermore, there are still a few bombs left that have not been exploded.
3.2. Mulberries Organic Silk Farm
Besides the Plain of Jars, the mulberries organic silk farm in Phonsavan is another interesting tourist attraction. Here you can observe the very traditional way of making Laotian silk: grow chemical-free mulberry trees, feed the silkworms with mulberry leaves, collect and roll up silk cocoons, dye silk with a native plant such as indigo, jackfruit, and tamarind. Here you can buy Laotian silk for yourself or your family and friends as a souvenir gift.
3.3. Muang Khoun, Muang Sui, Tham Pa:
If you have quite a lot of time in Xieng Khouang, take a look at Muang Khoun (the former royal capital of the Phuan Kingdom), Muang Sui (the former landing site for aircraft during World War II with numerous ancient Buddhist temples and provincial architecture) and Tham Pa (the 2 limestone caves where Buddha figures from centuries are kept).
4. What to eat in Xieng Khouang
Xieng Khouang is a tourist destination in Laos, so you don’t have to worry about food. There are restaurants where you can find traditional Laotian dishes as well as international cuisine. French influences are evident in coffee, pastries, and baguettes, and the choice of dishes is more than sufficient.
The easiest and cheapest way to try traditional Laotian gastronomy is at the food stalls in the local market in Phonsavan. Laotian gastronomy is traditionally very spicy but often modified to suit the foreign taste. The recommended dishes are sticky rice (best eaten with your fingers, not with spoons); Laap (fish, minced meat or vegetables, nicely mixed in lime juice, chili peppers, garlic, rice powder and served with sticky rice); Tam Maak Hung, a traditional papaya salad, and Khai Phaan, a weed from the Mekong River. The Lao national drinks are beer Lao and Lao Lao (rice whiskey).
The most recommended restaurants in Xieng Khouang are Lao-Falang Restaurant, Phonekeore, Khemna Restaurant, Phopmit Restaurant and Bamboozle Restaurant, and Bar.
5. Transportation in Xieng Khouang
The nearest airport is in Phonsavan.
– Lao Airlines offers six flights per week in high season and four flights to Vientiane in the low season.
– Flights between Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang are offered once a week.
– Flight schedules are subject to change without notice.
By car or bus:
From Vientiane, you can either take VIP buses or local buses. The buses leave from the Northern Bus Station and the journey takes approximately 10 to 12 hours.
The bus trip from Vang Vieng takes about 7-8 hours.
The buses run daily from Luang Prabang via Route 13 and 7 and take about 8 hours.
You can also take a private car from Luang Prabang, Vang Vieng or Vientiane to Xieng Khouang.
Moving in Xieng Khouang:
– Public transportation: This is an inexpensive option and offers the opportunity to get to know Laotians better. It should be noted, however, that most public transport does not depart or arrive on the set schedule. Public vehicles usually depart as soon as they are full and stop to pick up and drop off passengers on the way. It is also important to understand that legroom and space in public vehicles are very limited.
– To get to other cities in the province, you can take local buses or pick-up trucks. There are many tuk-tuks within Phonsavan but they may not be available in the early morning or late night booking. There are travel agencies in Phonsavan that offer bike, motorcycle, and car rental.
Finding accommodation in Phonsavan is easy. Despite the small size of the city, there are more than 10 hotels and more than 30 guest houses in Phonsavan. Most of them are located near the main street, which makes exploring the city very easy and time-saving. The standards of accommodations are simple and not as high as in Luang Prabang or Vientiane. Phonsavan does not offer luxury accommodations, but only budget accommodations such as guest houses and mid-range accommodations. The Vansana Plain of Jars Hotel is recommended. It is up to you to make your choice depending on your budget and personal preferences.