residential cave is worth visiting to see its natural beauty. The Hmong community of Ban Ta takes care of the caves and offers a local tour service. Nature Xieng Khouang is widely known for the Plain of Jars, but beyond its jars is the natural beauty of the province. 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
the feathers of course. Activities in Phonsavan Scenery and landscape '''Sunset Views'''. Climb up some of the UXO cleared hills around Phonsavan, such as the Old Cemetery or the War Memorials, Phou Padeng Resort (excellent French food and wine) or Phou Chan and enjoy sweeping views and splendid colors of the sunset. There are several '''War Memorials''' in Phonsavan that were constructed to commemorate the thousands of Pathet Lao soldiers who lost their lives during the Indochina
appreciated. Remember to dress politely: long trousers skirt and a clean shirt that covers both shoulders and chest. '''Badminton.'''For those in need of exercise or simply interested in taking part in one of Lao people’s favourite modern sports, the Xiangkhouang Mai Hotel also has badminton courts open to the public. Rackets are available for rent on the premises. Players are required to bring their own sporting attire. Activities around Phonsavan Scenery and landscape '''Nong Tang
''' Traveling to Thathom, located 130 km south of Phonsavan, 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 Phonsavan daily, but there are no regular trips in the rainy season. Boat services are available once you
, to use a metal detector and recognize ordnance. Their village assisted clearance approach allows communities to participate in the process. The UXO survivors Information Centre was opened by the World Education organisation. The centre has a gift shop with products made by UXO survivors. Buy Typical local products from Phonsavan and the surrounding area are naturally dyed textiles, each with a pattern exclusive to the maker's ethnic group, '''basketry''', '''mulberry paper umbrellas''' from Ban Mixay, '''spoons made from war scrap''' from Ban Napia or '''Hmong embroidery'''. * Wikipedia:Phonsavan Commons:Category:Phonsavan
the inauspicious months of July – October, which is Buddhist lent, and February, the month of the dog). For those interested in joining a wedding reception, one can enquire at the Mueang Phouan Hotel and the Xiangkhouang Mai Hotel, which hold receptions quite often during the wedding season. It is advised, however, that you bring a healthy appetite for family-style Lao food and a willingness to dance, sing and be merry. A small monetary gift to the newlyweds, placed in a white envelope, is also
Natural Silk Dying The local fresh food market is an excellent place to sample the variety of unique food that Xieng Khouang has to offer. The cool climate and high altitude of the province produces many food items and forest products that are not available in other parts of Laos, e.g. mushrooms, peaches, plums and passion fruit. Some people also sell exotic meats, such as bamboo rats or pheasants. The Navang Craft Centre is famous for woodcarving. This family business
, to use a metal detector and recognize ordnance. Their village assisted clearance approach allows communities to participate in the process. The UXO survivors Information Centre was opened by the World Education organisation. The centre has a gift shop with products made by UXO survivors. Buy Typical local products from Phonsavan and the surrounding area are naturally dyed textiles, each with a pattern exclusive to the maker's ethnic group, '''basketry''', '''mulberry paper umbrellas''' from
and passion fruit. Some people also sell exotic meats, such as live bamboo rats or pheasants. A special drink is '''matsutake whisky''' made from Hed Wai, a highly valued mushroom from the pine forests of Xieng Khouang. *
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 67 km from Phonsavan, has been developed as a (simple) resort with bungalows and indoor bathing facilities. The hot springs themselves are very hot and not suitable for swimming. For swimming you would have to go to the resort or walk down to the river. There is also a scenic jar site just 2 km away overlooking the valley. '''Tad Ka Waterfall
the Old Capital Xieng Khouang, Site 23, near the big hot spring in Muang Kham, Site 25 in the largely unvisited Muang Phukoot district and Site 52, the largest known jar site to date with 392 jars near a traditional Hmong (Hmong people) village only accessible on foot. The Luang Prabang Range, and the Annamite Range separate the plateau from Thailand and Vietnam respectively. ''The Ancient and Classical History of Southeast Asia'' The ranges of the plateau are sandstone and limestone mountains between 2000 and 2800 meters high (about 6561 and 9842 feet high). These have been heavily deforested. The highest mountain of Laos, Phou Bia, is located to the south of the Xiangkhoang. Altitudes within the plateau area may reach 1000 m. Laos, Le « Pays du million d’éléphants » Several tributaries of the Mekong drain in the plateau, such as the Nam Ngum, Ngiap (Ngiap River) and the Khan River. Encyclopædia Britannica - Xiangkhoang Plateau The major town in the area is the capital of Phonsavan. The plateau gives its name to present-day Xiangkhouang Province in which Phonsavan is located. Wikipedia:Phonsavan Commons:Category:Phonsavan
of autonomy although they had to pay tax and tribute to Lane Xang. During the 16th century expressive Buddhist art and architecture flourished. The capital was dotted with temples in a distinct Xiangkhouang style, i.e., simple low roofs with a characteristic "waist" at the foundation. In 1930 Le Boulanger described it as "a large and beautiful city protected by wide moats and forts occupying the surrounding hills and the opulence of the sixty-two pagodas and their stupas, of which the flanks concealed treasures, obtained the capital a fame that spread fear wide and far." After the Kingdom of Siam, contemporary Thailand, extended control to Lao territories east of the Mekong in the 1770s, Muang Phuan became a Siamese vassal state and also maintained tributary relations with Dai Viet (Vietnam). To exert greater control of the lands and people of Muang Phuan, the Siamese launched three separate campaigns (1777–79, 1834–36, and 1875 76) to resettle large parts of the Phuan population to the south in regions under firm Siamese control. Subsequent invasions by Haw marauders (Haw wars), splinter groups of ex-Taiping Revolution rebels from Southern China plundered Luang Prabang and Xiangkhouang in the 1870s, and desecrated and destroyed the temples of the Phuan region. The Franco-Siamese treaties of the 1890s placed Xiangkhouang under colonial rule as part of French Indochina until briefly after World War II. The French used Xiangkhouang as their provincial capital. A few ruined colonial public buildings remain, such as the governor's residence, church, and the French school. Provincial Tourism Department Xiangkhouang, A Guide to Xieng Khouang Martin Stuart-Fox The Lao Kingdom of Lao Xang: Rise and Decline, White Lotus Press, 1998 Contemporary history – The Indochina Wars During the Laotian Civil War, Xiangkhoang was the scene of extensive ground battles and intense aerial bombardment due to its strategic importance. The provinces of Houaphan and Xiangkhoang (Xiangkhouang Province) had been the stronghold of Pathet Lao forces and their Vietnamese allies. The heavy aerial bombardments to neutralize those forces or to drop off unused ordnance after returning from missions in Vietnam turned the Kingdom of Laos into the most heavily bombed nation in world history. Ethnic groups Xiangkhouang is home to five different ethnic groups. The Tai Dam (Tai Dam people), Tai Daeng (Tai Daeng people), Phuan (Phuan people), Khmu (Khmu people), and Hmong (Hmong people) have settled in the province. Their traditional houses, dresses, beliefs and rituals are part of the cultural heritage of Laos. There is also a minority of Laotian Chinese and Vietnamese as well as some international workers from Korea, Japan, Europe, and North America. Image:Hmong_New_Year_Girls.JPG Hmong Girls Image:Phonsavan_Hmong New Year_Bullfight.jpg Bullfight during Hmong New Year Image:Phuan_Girls.JPG Phuan girls in traditional clothing Tai Dam Tai Dam, Tai Daeng, and Tai Phuan belong to the Tai language family, by far the most significant language in Laos, spoken by 60% of the national population. The Tai Dam migrated from northern Vietnam to Laos 80–300 years ago. They are not Buddhists, instead they practice a form of ancestor and spirit worship. Tai Dam are well known producers of fine quality silk and cotton textiles and many women export directly to markets in Japan and the US. Older Tai Dam women still wear the traditional blue indigo cotton shirt, skirt and a black turban woven with colored patterns. They produce rice alcohol, called "lao lao" that is consumed socially and used for ritual purposes. Tai Dam settled in upland valleys near streams and irrigable and accessible plains scattered among Lao and Phuan villages. They built rectangular symmetric houses on pilings, with a rice granary are under the house. The villages are composed of 15¬60 houses and are not fenced. The people mainly live on wet rice, vegetables, poultry, weaving, sewing, and hunting. The ancestors of the Tai Phuan (Phuan people) once founded the kingdom of the same name. http: www.infomekong.com laophuan.htm Khmu Being part of the Mon-Khmer branch of the Austro-Asiatic lingusitic family, the Khmu present one of the largest ethnic groups in Laos. They settled in the area several thousand years ago. The Khmu rapidly acculturated and there is now little in their clothing that distinguishes them from the surrounding Lao, although they speak a completely different language. Khmu houses are built on stilts. Each village has a communal house where men gather for political discussions, or work together on basket making and other crafts. Like many ethnic groups in Lao the Khmu practice their own form of animism. The Khmu are well known for their skill at making baskets, fish traps, and other objects from bamboo. Their material culture, their tools, utensils, baskets and netbags reflect their continued reliance on the forest. Growing rice, hunting, gathering forest products and producing handicrafts provide some cash income. They distill "lao hai"(jar alcohol). Hmong Hmong people originate from the high steppes of Mongolia and Tibet. They migrated from China to Laos between 1810 and 1900. Having a strong desire for independence they rebelled against the Chinese attempts to control and settle them and they fled in successive waves southwards. During the Lao Civil war in the 1960s and 1970s Hmong were recruited by the CIAs "secret army", commanded by Hmong General Vang Pao. Hmong villages were relocated in free-fire zones and many died during these evacuations or due to fighting. When the communists came to power in 1975 tens of thousands of Hmong fled to Thailand or emigrated to USA. Today the diaspora is a major economic factor in the province by sending high amounts of remittances fuelling significant construction activity. personal communication with people in Phonsavan. The high density of Western Union and Moneygram outlets even in small villages is another indicator The Hmong present 6-10% of the total population of Laos and remain most numerous and concentrated in the east of Xiangkhouang. In the province the White Hmong, the Striped Hmong, and the Green Hmong can be distinguished. The easiest way to differentiate these groups is by looking at the women's dress. Hmong live in forested mountains between 800 to 1,500 meters elevation and in Laos they are categorized as Lao Soung, highland people, although today there are a more and more villages located in the low lands. Hmong live in villages ranging in size from 15 to over 60 houses. They are not fenced and are organized by clan. The rectangular houses are on beaten soil and have one room without windows. The walls are made of vertical wood planks and bamboo and a thatched roof. Hmong are known for their knowledge of the forest, herbal medicines, and expertise in raising animals. Their agricultural system is based on rain-fed slope cultivation with slash and burn techniques. They live on ordinary rice, corn and vegetable production, swine and poultry, gathering, hunting, embroidery, and basket work. Their religion is a form of shamanistic animism with a cult of ancestors and spirits, and a belief in three souls. Certain spirits protect the people within the village boundaries while others maintain their influence over the plant and animal kingdom outside the village. Hmong women are renowned for their embroidery and weaving. Traditionally clothes are made from hemp and cotton. Batik, used only by Green Hmong for their distinctive skirts is a very long process. Before dying the cloth the pattern is marked with wax. The wax is then removed to reveal the pattern. The wax is applied with a batik pen and the design is completed square by square. Many geometrical patterns exist and they are passed on from mother to daughter. The material is pleated by running a sharp edged stone along the pleat lines on alternate sides of the cloth, and sewing the poles into place at the waistband. The skirts with many other items of Hmong clothing are also embroidered. Embroidery and applique is a social activity, a time for women to sit together and exchange views and news. The '''Hmong New Year''' celebrations in December, starting from the 15th day of the ascending moon, are accompanied by numerous activities including top-spinning competitions, dances, songs, and bull fights. It is one of the main occasions used for finding a wife or a husband. The young men and women toss the makkono, a small fabric ball as part of a charming courting ritual. The throwing of the ball can go on for hours. During the festivities the Hmong women wear their traditional dresses which are adorned with intricate embroidery and silver jewelry. Local food With a cool climate and relatively high elevation, Xiengkhouang produces many food items and forest products that are either not available or in scarce supply in other parts of the country. Specialty fruits of the province (seasonally available dependent on species) are Chinese pears (mak jong), passion fruit (mak nawt), peaches (mak kai), and plums (mak mun). Many different varieties of mushrooms are found here, such as hed deep, a yellow, flower-like mushroom common to the area. hed wai (Matsutake) specific to the region, is exported at high prices (US$30-40 kg) to connoisseurs throughout the world. Another notable medicinal forest product unique to the province is ya hua, a root used to give strength and good appetite and for treating ailments experienced by women after giving birth. Xiangkhouang's local chili pastes are the jaeow bong, a sour version of the famous chili paste from Luang Prabang, and jaeow pa khem, a paste made from salted fish. One of the unusual foods that Xiengkhouang is famous for, available only here, is '''sour swallow''' (nok ann toong). Every year, beginning in August-September, migratory swallows, traveling from Russia and other northern areas, visit Xiengkhouang to bathe on dust platforms located on hill tops. The swallows are caught and placed in a container to ferment. Later they are prepared by either frying or cooking in a stew. The birds are best eaten whole—without the feathers of course. Activities in Phonsavan Scenery and landscape '''Sunset Views'''. Climb up some of the UXO cleared hills around Phonsavan, such as the Old Cemetery or the War Memorials, Phou Padeng Resort (excellent French food and wine) or Phou Chan and enjoy sweeping views and splendid colors of the sunset. There are several '''War Memorials''' in Phonsavan that were constructed to commemorate the thousands of Pathet Lao soldiers who lost their lives during the Indochina Wars and to honour the Vietnamese soldiers who fought alongside them. Climb up the small hills and you will be rewarded with great views of the town and surrounding areas. '''Old Cemetery and Lake Jao Supanouvong'''. This large cemetery is on a hill 1 km north of Phonsavan. What makes it unique is that Tai Dam animist tombs are mixed together with Catholic tombstones, Chinese graves and Lao Buddhist reliquary. The hill top offers sweeping views and is an ideal spot for watching the sun set of the green hills. The lake 3 km north of town is named in honor of Prince Supanouvong the first president of the Lao PDR. Once the site of the provincial jail, it is now a place for a quick retreat. Handicraft and shopping Typical local products from Phonsavan and the surrounding area include natural dyes and textiles decorated with patterns unique to each ethnic group, mulberry paper umbrellas, spoons made from war scrap and Hmong embroidery. In the villages the basket making is still of great importance. Basket work is traditionally performed by men. The typical Hmong shoulder baskets, which are used to carry food and goods are made from bamboo, another material used is rattan. A special drink is Mastake whisky made from hed wai, a highly valued mushroom from the pine forests of Xiangkhouang. Image:Ban Mixay Umbrellas.jpg Umbrellas from Ban Mixay Image:Ban Napia Spoons.jpg Spoons handmade from UXO war scrap, Ban Napia Image:Silk dying.JPG Natural Silk Dying The local fresh food market is an excellent place to sample the variety of unique food that Xieng Khouang has to offer. The cool climate and high altitude of the province produces many food items and forest products that are not available in other parts of Laos, e.g. mushrooms, peaches, plums and passion fruit. Some people also sell exotic meats, such as bamboo rats or pheasants. The Navang Craft Centre is famous for woodcarving. This family business produces wood crafts made from scented Long Leng Wood (Fujian Cypress), a rare wood. You can watch the carvers work and buy souvenirs daily from 07:30–20:00. In the town centre there is a Hmong Craft Centre offering Hmong handicrafts. The shop is also home to a massage parlor run by a group of experienced Thais. 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 dyeing. 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 self-guided tour will lead you through the centre. 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. http: www.mulberries.org Social activities At the '''UXO-Visitor Information Centre''' in the centre of Phonsavan (opposite Craters Restaurant) the Mines Advisory Group (MAG (Mines Advisory Group)) informs about the UXO problematic in the province. MAG began its Lao programme in 1994 and started the first internationally supported UXO clearance operation in Xiangkhouang. MAG works to help people to rebuild their lives and alleviates suffering by responding to the needs of conflict affected communities. Local staff has been training to clear away the brush, to use a metal detector and recognize ordnance. Their village assisted clearance approach allows communities to participate in the process. Open Mon–Fri 08:00–20:00 and Sat–Sun 16:00–20:00 http: www.maginternational.org Wikipedia:Phonsavan Commons:Category:Phonsavan
and is one of the major tributaries of the Muangkhoun . Nong Het and Phaxay District in particular offer stunning karst scenery with plenty of caves, cliffs, underground rivers and waterfalls. The area is particularly beautiful during peach and orchid tree blossom in February. In December, the hills are full of yellow sunflowers. Xiengkhouang Province has many things to visit. The most popular site is the Plain of Jars which has more than 58 sites, although now there are just 7 sites open to the public. Some other things you can visit today are a waterfall, and Piew cave where 374 people hid but all died from American bombing. Climate Phonsavan has humid subtropical climate (Köppen (Köppen climate classification) ''Cwa'') tempered by its high elevation (1,100 m). The city has long, warm, wet summers and short, dry winters. Average June temperature is 23.6 °C, average December (the coldest month) temperature is 14.8 °C. Wikipedia:Phonsavan Commons:Category:Phonsavan
'''Phonsavan''' (Lao (Lao language): ໂພນສະຫວັນ) (population 37,507) Paek District Office, Statistics Department. Paek District has a population of 70,215. Xiengkhouang Province has 250,000 people. The borders from town to district are not very clear, and Phonsavan administratively is a collection of villages. is the capital of Xiangkhoang Province. The name stands for "hills of paradise".
Phonsavan is the provincial capital of Xiangkhouang Province. The countryside is dominated by green hills and pine forests. Villages consist of colourful wooden houses. Cattle raising is one of the main agricultural activities and Hmong cowboys with brown and violet cowboy hats are a common sight. During Hmong New Year there are bullfights in the city. Phonsavan was built in the late 1970s and replaced the old Xiangkhouang (today: Muang Khoun) which had been destroyed during the Second Indochina War. Phonsavan's most famous attraction is the nearby Plain of Jars, which has been nominated for UNESCO World Heritage status. The main economic activity in Phonsavan is based on government administration, mining companies from China and Australia, tourism, and the work of NGOs related to clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO).