Located in the north of Laos, Xieng Khouang is rich in natural beauty with its rugged karst formations and high green mountains. The capital of this province is Phonsavan which makes a perfect base for travellers on the Indochina tour packages interested in seeing the mysterious Plains of Jars.
The mountains that surround Xieng Khouang give breathtaking beauty and home to a variety of tribes of indigenous people that still have a basic lifestyle and wear colourful traditional dress. Because this region isn’t directly on the main tourist route, it has been able to keep and maintain its well preserved natural environment.
But, the region is starting to see an increase in foot traffic because of the increased popularity of the archaeological landscape at the Plain of Jars, which is likely to become a UNESCO World Heritage Site in the future.
The majority of the Xiangkhouang Province is made up of mountainous topography. This region is bordered to the southwest by Vientiane, to the southeast by Bolikhamsai, to the east by Vietnam, to the northeast by Houaphan, and to the northwest by Luang Prabang. There are plenty of areas of open and level land in the Xiangkhouang region that is used for the production of maize.
The high altitude in in Xieng Khouang – about 1,200 m – means the climate is quite pleasant year-round. The temperature isn’t overly warm in the hot season and the amount of rain throughout the wet season is quite mild. Overall, the preferable time to visit this region on the Laos tour packages is between November and February, which is seen as the cool season. However, when travelling in the exposed highland plains the weather can get quite chilly in the evenings, and it benefits to pack warm clothes.
How to get there
Xieng Khouang is easy to reach by travelling from the capital city, Vientiane by local or VIP buses. The travel time from Vientiane to Xieng Khouang can take up to 12 hours. Alternative routes include from Luang Prabang, which takes about 8 hours and from Vang Vieng, which takes about 7-8 hours. Most of the routes include the daily bus trips.
For ease in getting around Xieng Khouang or other local towns, it is possible to use the tuk-tuk, pick-up trucks, or buses. The tuk-tuk is available without prior booking at the start of the day and late in the evening. A tour of the local town can cost in the region of $1-$2. Plus, there is the option to hire a bicycle or motorbike for the day, which can cost about $2-$3 for a bike and $12 for a scooter (price can vary with availability and season).
Where to stay
There is a varied choice of accommodation listed in the Laos travel guide for travellers in Xieng Khouang that includes guest houses, resorts and hotels. The cost of staying the night can cost in the region of $10 to $100 or more, which makes it possible to find the accommodation to match the needs of every traveller, from budget to luxury.
A stay at the Chittavanh Hotel makes it possible to relax in one of the newest hotels with large and spacious rooms. This hotel has an attached nightclub which makes it very popular with young people and backpackers. The rooms cost about $12-$30 per night.
The Dok Khoun Hotel is a large guest house that is mostly favoured by the tour groups and backpackers. A night staying in this guesthouse costs in the region of $10-$18.
For a stay in a colonial style villa, the Hillside Residence is the perfect choice with its relaxed atmosphere and charming rooms. Many of the upstairs rooms include a balcony to make it possible to enjoy the evening outside. The cost per night is $20-$25.
Eat and drink
The local Xieng Khouang eating options aren’t overly varied with most of the eateries serving up the traditional Asian dishes. There are many places that have a lot of French influence and serve pastries, baguettes and coffee.
A few of the local restaurants offer the Western dishes, but the local Laotian dishes are usually the best because that is what the chef’s know the best.
A great restaurant in town is Dok Khoun which has a great reputation for serving up dishes that are able to satisfy the customers’ appetite. The menu is rich in local Asian and Western dishes and includes national dishes and a set menu for a great bargain.
The best place to shop for much needed supplies or gifts for family and friends is the local market that is easily found in the centre of town. Even though it isn’t a touristy market, there are still plenty of things to buy including genuine local products, clothes and food. Plus, there are many items of handicrafts. The preferred time to visit is early in the day (before 12pm) which is when the market is more active and has the best choices.
Things to see and do
There are a variety of things to see and do for the on the Indochina tour packages when exploring the Xieng Khouang province, including:
The Plain Of Jars
The fascinating Plain of Jars is approx 12 km from the centre of town. Scattered across a plateau is nearly 30 stone jars in different sizes and varying state of repair. Most of the jars are in the region of 1-3 m in height and the largest can have a diameter of up to 2.7 m. It is believed the largest jars weigh in excess of 6 tons.
In the south of Phonsavan there are two war memorials within a relatively short distance from one another. The war memorials are split between the Vietnamese and Lao war memorial.
Muang Khoun is a medium sized village that is in the region of 32 km SE of Phonsavan. The town was previously the capital of Xieng Khouang and the centre of the Phuan Kingdom.
Muang Kham Cemetery
One of the more unique sites to explore on the Laos tour packages is the Muang Kham Cemetery, which makes it possible to see the Laos (Buddhist) tombs, Catholic headstones and Thai Dam animist tombs.