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Travel Guide > Asia > Laos > Phonsavan

Phonsavan Sights & Attractions

  
 
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Indochinese war sites

During the Second Indochina War, Xieng Khouang was the scene of extensive ground battles and intense aerial bombardment due to its strategic importance. The provinces of Houaphan and Xieng Khouang had been the stronghold of Pathet Lao forces and their Vietnamese allies.

The heavy aerial carpert bombardments to neutralize those forces or to drop off unused ordnances after returning from missions in Vietnam turned the Plain of Jars quite literally into the Plain of Scars and the most heavily bombarded areas per capita worldwide. In addition to bombs massive quantities of defoliants and herbicides were dropped.

Evidence of the intense fighting can be seen in the cratered landscape in in war relics such as bomb shells, tanks and military positions. The resourceful locals refashion war scrap into items for everyday use, e.g. spoons in Ban Napia village, vegetable planters, fences, tools, pumps and barbeque fireplaces.

The extent of the bombardment is in particular evident at Ban Khai, 36 km northeast of Phonsavanh and Jar sites 1 and 3; here the landscape is pockmarked with craters. Driving north along Route 7 plenty of creatively modified war scarp used in local architecture catches your eye. In Tajok, a Hmong village along Route 7 (30 km northeast of Phonsavanh), you can discover lots of bomb casings reused as barn pillars, fences and for other uses.

Caves - refuges for thousands of people

During the war thousands of local residents took shelter in caves and set up hospitals and schools; the army used the caves as well to store weapons and medical supplies. Two major caves are open to the public:  

Tham Piu Cave

Tham Piu Cave is located 6 km north of Muang Kham. It is one of the tragedies of the so-called Secret War. On 24th of November 1969 a single rocket fired from an aircraft caused the death of an estimated 374 people who had taken refuge in the cave. Their bones are still buried in the rubble.

Directions: Take Route 5 towards Nam Nguen and turn left 3 km from Muang Kham; the paved road ends at the cave.

Tham Xang Caves

The Tham Xang Caves are located in a scenic karst area, the caves were used by the revolutionairy fighters. Inside the cave complex they set up a hospital, an arsenal and a medicine depot. Evidence can still be seen. Besides its war history the illuminated residential cave is worth visiting to see its natural beauty. The Hmong community of Ban Ta takes care off the caves and offers a local tour guide service.

Directions: The caves are 36km northwest of Phonsavanh. Take Route 7, pass Nong Pet, then in Nam Ka village turn left into a dirt road; follow the signs to Tham Xang until you reach Ban Ta.

Scenery & nature

Xieng Khouang is widely known for the Plain of Jars , but beyond its jars the natural beauty of the province is waiting to be discovered. Xieng Khouang’s scenery is characterised by the highest mountains in the country (Mount Phou Bia), its pine forests, deciduous woodlands, rolling hills and grasslands. In the cold season the green hills of the Plain of Jars turn reddish brown giving it a touch of the “Wild West” with yellow sunflowers and pointsetta in full bloom.

Nam Ngum, the largest river in the province originates from the mountains in Paek District and is one of the major tributaries of the Mekong. Nong Het and Phaxay District in particular offer stunning karst scenery with plenty of caves, cliffs, underground rivers and waterfalls. Visiting the area is very beautiful during peach and orchid tree blossom in February.

Nong Tang Lake

Nong Tang Lake is a large picturesque natural lake flanked by high limestone cliffs. Locals use it for fishing and it is a favourite picnic site. Enjoy the peaceful setting in the local restaurant. Overnight stay is available in a guesthouse along the shore. Nongtang is located 48 km from Phonsavanh on Route 7 going to Phou Khoun.  

Hot Springs

Hot Springs can be visited in the vicinity of Muang Kham off Route 7. The big hot spring Baw Nyai is 67km from Phonsavanh, has been developed as a resort with bungalows and indoor bathing facilities. You can walk through the forest to the spring source, but swimming in the pool is not possible.

The Jar Site of Ban Nam Hom is just a 2km walk away. This jar site offers an insight in how the jars were made as part of the jar site is a jar quarry area. Taking a guide to visit the site is recommended.

Tad Ka Waterfall

Tad Ka Waterfall in Nong Het is an impressive waterfall is surrounded by spectacular limestone karst. The water runs down in cascading steps alternating with steep areas for more than 100 metres and flows all year round. To get to the falls follow Route 7 to Nong Het, at Khang Phaniane Village turn left into a graveled road (100km from Phonsavanh) and drive for about 3km; take the trail to the left and walk about 30 minutes to get to the waterfall. Taking a guide is recommended.

Tad Ka Waterfall in Tajok is located near Tajok village, 32 km north of Phonsavanh. The water flows over several tiers. A spectacular jungle trail winds its way up the waterfall crossing it several times. Tad Kha is a popular picnic spot for locals, especially during the Lao New Year holidays. To get there turn right at the end of Tajok village; follow the road until you see a building to the right.

Walk along the ridge and take the right trail down. Local tour companies offer day tours including a picnic lunch and a hike up the waterfall.

Tad Lang Waterfall

Tad Lang Waterfall is located near Jar site 3 just 700 metres off the road to Ban Nakang cascading down ca. 800 metres. To enjoy its whole beauty follow the trail down to the bottom of the valley. It is a good picnic spot, but because you must cross a river to reach it, access is difficult in the rainy season.

Thathom

Thathom is located 130 km south of Phonsavanh, is still an adventure. Driving mainly on dirt roads you pass thick deciduous forests, stands of bamboo, remote villages and cross rivers several times. Thathom offers a gorgeous karst landscape with plenty of rivers, caves and historical sites, but so far, tourist services are scarce.

Song thaews (pick-up trucks) leave Phonsavanh daily, but there are no regular trips in the rainy season. Boat services are available once you reach the Nam Xan River going to Paksan in Bolikhamxay province.

Activities

The Mulberry Silk Farm

The Mulberry Silk Farm of Lao Sericulture Co, a fair trade company, is dedicated to enabling Lao village silk producers in the Northern provinces to revive the art of high quality local silk production. Villagers are trained in sericulture, the process of raising silkworms, processing and improved weaving techniques and natural dying. Leaves, bark, vines, berries and seeds create colour choices to match virtually any taste.

To learn about the whole process you are welcome to visit the farm. A free guided tour leads you through the production process. Any purchase of souvenirs will help the local communities and enabling them to rise out of poverty. It is located in Ban Li (just west of Phonsavan on Route 7) and is open Mon - Sat 8:00 - 16:00.  

English classes

Participate in English classes at Phonsavan school (English Centre, Phonsavan school. English speaking tourists are welcome to participate in English evening classes in the local primary - junior high school. It is a beautiful experience, and there are no requirements of being a teacher.





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