Best known for its stunning historical scenery, Laos is a perfect place to visit if you want to discover the beauty of pristine nature, ethnic diversity, and traditional culture. If Luang Prabang is known for its royal palaces and old French colonial architectures; Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, is known for the exquisite monuments, temples, and mountains; then Xieng Khouang is best known for being the most anciently attractive place with its spectacular scenery and centuries-old destinations reserving the footprints from the war. Yet, there are plenty of exciting things to do in Xieng Khouang that will surely give you a memorable trip.
1. Dropping in the Plain of Jars
It will be a mistake to not mention the UNESCO-listed Plain of Jars when it comes to visiting Xieng Khouang. Locating in Phonsavan, the capital town of the village, this place is a group of fields including thousands of stone jars of various sizes and shapes. It consists of 3 separate sites with different features and landscapes. The origins, as well as prehistoric material of the jars, are still under study, and some archaeologists predict that they may be dating back to the early Iron Age between 500 BC and 500-800 AD.
It is highly recommended to visit Site 1, since it is closer to the town’s center and is dotted with more than 300 jars, making it the largest site of the plain. Visitors can also see the remarkable panorama of the jars across the 25-hectare field, alongside with trenches, foxholes, and bomb craters – all of which are grim reminders of the war in the past.
2. Wandering around the Mulberries Organic Silk Farm
If you are someone who is fascinated by the unique fashion and fabric products of Laos, do not forget to take a trip to this Mulberries Organic Silk Farm. Here, you will be watching the entire silk cycle from worms to woven goods and even get a chance to participate in one stage of the whole silk-making process. The staff will walk you through every step of the production, from growing mulberries, feeding the worms, reeling silk, to naturally-dyeing and weaving the cloths.
After observing and participating, you can purchase the finished products from their gift shops and can even order custom souvenirs based on your preferences of patterns, fabrics, and color.
3. Visiting Tham Piu Cave
As Xieng Khouang is very much a place of war remnants, visitors can not miss the chance to come to the Tham Piu Cave area, one of the tragedies of the Indochina War and stands as a memorial to the 374 innocent villagers that were killed by a severe US missile attack in 1968.
Here, you can read stories and see photographs from the wartime years displayed in the Visitor Centre. Entering the entrance, you will also see a statue of a man carrying a lifeless child calling for an “Annual Day of Remembrance”, showing the grim history behind the bombing and all the tragedies resulting from the war. On the way up to the cave, you will see lots of grave markets, bomb craters, and a large golden Buddha.
4. Paying a visit to Muang Khoun Town
Being called a ghost of its former self, Muang Khoun (Old Xieng Khouang) is an example of a village that survived through all blood and tears from the war. Back in the 14th century, the prosperous Muang Khoun was renowned for its lavish stupas and temples before suffering a series of attacks by China and Vietnamese soldiers. Then it got heavily bombarded during the Second Indochina War that by 1975, the village was almost completely abandoned.
What left from the battle, is an elegant Buddha image towering over ruined columns of brick at Wat Phia Wat, and That Dam, the first temple that heralds the arrival into Muang Khoun. Although not having the same level of touristy convenience and development compared to Phonsavan, Muang Khoun still worths a one-day trip for those who want to fully immerse in the cultural and historical background of Laos.
5. Enjoy the waterfalls and hot springs
After days of hiking and traveling, you might want to let off some steam by enjoying the beautiful landscape and immersing yourself in the hot stream of water. Consider going to Tad Ka, 99 kilometers away from Phonsavan, on a picnic in one of the most picturesque waterfalls among Laotians top-notch favorites for special occasions. You can take hundreds of stunning photos from the charm of this place.
Last but not least, Xieng Khouang also has wonderful hot springs in Ban Nyai or Ban Xang for you to be totally relaxed after a day full of physical activities. You can rest as well as enjoy the local’s unique culture and photogenic scenery.
If you are someone who loves exploring nature, treasures the value of historical destinations and is about to find some different yet memorable experience, why not take a trip to Xieng Khouang and see what it has more to offer you?