Tourists who are looking for a break from the busy city of Vientiane would love the historical and fascinating landscape of Xieng Khouang – a province in northeast Laos.
The province is best known for the famous and enigmatic Plain of Jars – giant stone jars carved from single pieces of rock, which has since baffled historians and scientists alike.
Aside from the Plain of Jars, tourists can also relax and enjoy in the number of hotels and other entertainment establishments in the province’s capital, Phonesavanh.
Phonesavanh’s Plain of Jars consists of giant limestone jars seemingly dumped all around the surrounding landscape – which makes for amazing albeit mysterious scenery. It has three separate sites that are open and can be visited by the public. The sites are still riddled with unexploded ordnance from the Second Indochina War, so tourists are urged to stay within the safe walking paths. Another notable attraction is the quaint village of Muang Khoun with its number of ruined temples and stupas. At the same time, a visit to the lazy river town of Nong Khiaw is a must in order to enjoy a hike to the 100 Waterfalls and several caves, and even relish a quiet drink with the sunset from one of the riverside bars.
You can get to the province of Xieng Khouang via the airport in Phonesavanh where flights from Vientiane and Luang Prabang are available around 4 to 6 times a week.
You can also reach it by land via VIP and local buses from Vientiane, which takes about 10-12 hours. Buses from Luang Prabang are also available daily and the trip can take around 7 to 8 hours. You can also opt to hire a minivan from both Vientiane and Luang Prabang, but it must be noted that while the roads are paved, there are a lot of twists and turns throughout the journey.
Establishments at Xieng Khouang accept Laotian Kip (LAK), Laos’ official currency that is available in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10000, 20000, and 50000. As Xieng Khouang is a province with mostly small towns, ATM machines may not be as widely available as it is in the cities of Vientiane and Luang Prabang, charge fees also apply for withdrawals, and the same goes for credit cards. So it is better to prepare and pay in Kip. Also note that the Kip is inconvertible outside of Laos, so better exchange in the airport before leaving the country.
Temperatures are always high in Xieng Khouang, with the rainy season falling in the months of April to October, and the dry season in the months of November to February. The best time to visit is during the months of January to February, and October to December as these months enjoy nice weather and average temperature.
Phonesavanh surprisingly offers a wide range of food given its size. The province is home to more than 30 restaurants that include Chinese, Vietnamese, and Lao, and a number of Pho soup shops. A few restaurants such as Craters also serve Western food, such as pizzas and burgers.
Overall, Xieng Khouang and Phonesavanh is a must visit for everyone who wishes to fully experience the culture and history of Laos. Its diverse and fascinating sites, and quaint towns are perfect settings for culture appreciation and relaxation.