Phonsavan (Phonsavanh) is the capital of Xieng Khouang province in Central Laos. It is known primarily as the gateway to the Plain of Jars.
Phonsavanh is the provincial capital of Xieng Khouang province. It was built in the late 1970s and replaced the old Xieng Khouang which had been destroyed during the Second Indochina War. It is located in the centre of the Plain of Jars and has a pleasant climate all year around.
The long winding main street of Phonsavanh looks like the setting of a David Lynch inspired Spaghetti Western minus the tumbleweeds. As soon as you leave town the countryside is dominated by green hills and pine forests. Villages consist of colourful wood houses and often raise cattle. You will see more than one Hmong cowboy with brown and violet cowboy hats. During Hmong New Year there are even bullfights in Phonsavanh.
Its most famous attraction is the nearby Plain of Jars
, which is to be nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. The main economic activity in Phonsavanh is based on government administration, mining companies from China and Australia, tourism and the work of NGOs related to UXO clearance.
Phonsavanh is home to various ethnic groups, such as the Phuan, whose ancestors once founded the kingdom of the same name, the Hmong, which New Years celebrations in Xieng Khouang are famous throughout Laos, and the Khmu and Tai Dam. There is also a minority of Laotian Chinese and Vietnamese as well as some international workers and missionaries from Korea and the USA.
Typical local products from Phonsavanh and the surrounding area are natural dyes and textiles each with individual pattern depending on the ethnic group, basketry, mulberry paper umbrellas, spoons made from war scrap or Hmong embroidery.
A special drink is Mastake Whiskey made from Hed Wai, a highly valued mushroom from the pine forests of Xieng Khouang.