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Xieng Khouang

Xieng Khouang

Xiangkhouang (Lao: ຊຽງຂວາງ, meaning "Horizontal City") is a province of Laos, located in the Xiangkhouang Plateau, north-east of the country. Originally known as Muang Phouan, the present capital of the province is Phonsavan. The population of the province as of March 2005 census is 229,521
Xieng Khouang Overview
Located 400 kilometers northeast of Vientiane Capital, Xieng Khouang Province has a population of 251, 334 spread over an approximate area of 15,000 square kilometers. It is one of the 17 provinces of Lao PDR, located in the north-central area of the country and a destination for many Laos Holiday packages, on the mountainous Tran-Ninh plateau. Xieng Khouang includes eight districts: Paek, Phaxay, Phoukoot, Kham, Nong Hét, Khoun, Thathom, and Mokmai.
 
It is set at an altitude of more than 1,000 meters above sea level and enjoys mild temperatures for most of the year, although winters can be surprisingly cold. Kham District is a low-lying basin set at around 600 meters above sea level.

Xieng Khouang enjoys a remarkable geographical location, surrounded by mountain ranges, with Phou Bia (2,700 meters) the highest peak in Lao PDR. The province sits at the crossroads of traffic from central Vietnam and northeast Thailand. Historically, this two powerful neighbours-Siam and Vietnam have vied for control of its soil.
 
The province shares borders with Houaphanh, Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Bolikhamxay provinces, as well as an international border with Vietnam’s Nghe An Province. Xieng Khouang has a long and rich history and is home to numerous ethnic groups, including Thai Phuan, Hmong, Khmu and Tai Dam.
 
Xieng Khouang is home to the Plain of Jars, the prehistoric stone megaliths which attract thousands of tourists to the province each year. The Lao government is currently finalizing an application for the World Heritage Committee to consider listing the Plain of Jars as a World Heritage Monument. The area is of significant archaeological importance on account also of the standing stones in nearby Houaphanh Province.
 

Xieng Khouang History
Xieng Khouang and the enigmatic Plain of Jars make up one of the most important sites for studying the late prehistory of mainland Southeast Asia. While the ancient civilization that constructed the jars was flourishing, advances in agricultural production, the manufacturing of metals, and the organization of long-distance overland trade between India and China were also rapidly transforming local society and setting the stage for urbanization across the region. 
 
Mortuary practices associated with the jars consisting of both cremation and secondary burial suggest a highly-evolved local tradition of ritual, symbolism and metaphysics which persisted through to the kingdoms of the Angkor Period, long after the arrival of Hindu and Buddhist philosophies into Southeast Asia.
 
Prehistoric material found at the Plain of Jars is still under study, and apparently spans a considerable period of time, with some dating from as early as 2000 BC. The bulk of the archaeological material, however, as well as the jars themselves appeared much later, dating to the early Iron Age between 500 BC and 500-800 AD. 
 
The closet archaeological parallels to the finds at the Plain of Jars appear to be Bronze and Iron Age materials from Dong Son in Viet Nam, Samrong Sen in Cambodia, and the Khorat Plateau in northeast Thailand. There are also similarities with the present-day city of Danang, as well as with sites in the North Cachar Hills of northeastern India where megalithic jar North exist. All of these similar sites date to approximately the same period-roughly 500 BC - 500 AD. Together they form a mosaic picture of a large area of upland Southeast Asia criss-crossed by traders, with the Xieng Khouang Plateau at its centre.
 
Although little is known about the people that constructed the megalithic stone jars, an account of the area's history as it relates to the Tai Puan and the lands they settled in Xieng Khouang is recorded in the Pongsawadan Meuang Puan or the Muang Puan Chronicles. 
 
The Tai Puan are a Buddhist Tai-Lao ethnic group that migrated from what is today southern China and by the 13th century had formed an independent principality at the Plain of Jars that prospered from the overland trade in metals and forest products. In the mid-14th century, Muang Puan was incorporated into the Lane Xang Kingdom under Fa Ngum, though the Phuan were able to retain a high degree of autonomy. 
 
After Siam (Thailand) extended control to Lao territories east of the Mekong in the 1770's, Muang Puan became a Siamese vassal state and also maintained tributary relations with Dai Viet (Viet Nam). To exert greater control of the lands and people of Muang Phuan, the Siamese launched three separate campaigns (1777-1779, 1834-1836, 1875-1876) to resettle large parts of the Phuan population to the south to regions under firm Siamese control. 
 
Xiengkhouangunder colonial rule as part of French Indochina until briefly after World War II.
 
* The Indochina Wars
 
During the Second Indochina War that raged in Laos during the 1960's and early 1970's Xieng Khouang suffered heavy aerial bombardment and intense ground battles due to its strategic importance. 
 
This conflict has left a deadly legacy of unexploded ordnance (UXO) which is still being cleared today. Since Laos gained full independence in 1975, Xieng Khouang and the Plain of Jars are enjoying peace and tranquility after centuries of conflict. 
 
The original capital city, Muong Khoun, was almost totally obliterated by US bombing and consequently, the capital was moved to nearby Phonsavanh. 
 
Xieng Khouang climate and best time to visit
The best time to have a Laos trip and to visit  Xieng Khouang region is during the cool season, from November to February. Tourists visiting during these months should remember to carry some warm clothes. Xieng Khouang is a highland plain and while the weather is pleasantly cool most of the time, the nights tend to get quite chilly towards the end of the year.

Visits during the cooler months of December and January, when temperatures fall as low as 15 degrees C allow guests to enjoy the lush greenery along the Mekong delta and all over Xieng Khouang. If you decide to visit during the more popular months, make sure to book your Xieng Khuang hotels in advance.
Xieng Khouang Transportation
By plane
 
The nearest airport is in Phonsavan. Lao Airlines offers six flights a week in peak season and four flights in low season to Vientiane.
 
By bus
 
If you are travelling from Vientiane you can either take VIP buses or local buses. The buses leave from the northern bus terminal and take about 10-12 hours. Note: The roads are paved but there are plenty of serpentines. The bus trip from Vang Vieng takes 7-8 hours. Buses run daily from Luang Prabang via Route 13 and 7 and take 8 hours. You could also hire a minivan in either Luang Prabang or Vientiane.
 
Coming from Vinh or Hanoi in Vietnam visas are available on arrival at the Nam Ka border, which is open daily from 6:00 – 18:00. The bus from Vinh leaves four days a week and takes 12 hours, form Hanoi there is one bus per week and it is convenient for a journey of Indochina trip
Things to do and see in Xieng Khouang
The best sites would be interesting in your Laos trip or Indochina holiday packages as below:

Plain of Jars
 
You will be crazily excited about discovering hundreds of giant stone jars, some as large as 3.25 meters high are strewn all over the plateau –carved out of solid hunks of rock from surrounding mountains. Just coming there and watching, you may find the answer for yourself.
 
Hot springs
 
Two hot mineral springs can be visited near Meuang Kham on the way to Houaphanh, Baw Nyai is the larger of the two and lie 18 km from Meuang Kham, 52 km from Phonsavanh. it has been developed as a resort with bungalows and bathing facilities. The spring source is in a heavily wooded area where several bamboo pipes have been set up so that you can bathe nearby.
 
Baw Noi (little spring)
 
Feeds into a stream just a few hundred meters off Route 7, a couple of kilometers before Baw Nyai on the way from Muang Kham. At the entrance to the stream where locals peddle their weaving and other locally made handicrafts, a few heavily eroded stone jars can be visited.
 
Tham Piu Cave 
 
Tham Piu is another Indochina War related site, where in 1969 a single rocket fired from a Royalist aircraft caused the death of hundreds of people who had taken refuge in the cave. Apart from its historical significance, it is still worth making the trip to Tham Piu to see the beautiful scenery and traditional villages in the vicinity. 
 
Not so far from the main cave lies another jar site. This jar site can be reached from the village of Ban Ngam Hom after a 45-minute hike into the beautiful forest; local guides can bring you to the site for a fee.
 
Old Xiengkhouang (Muang Khoun)
 
 Muang Khoun is located 30 km southeast of Phonsavan. This town was once the royal capital, the center of the Phuan Kingdom. Though the town was heavily bombed during the war, a few French colonial buildings remain in the town center alongside Wat Si Phum with its large sitting Buddha. 
 
On the outskirts, the ancient stupas tower over the city and the vistas surrounding the structures are well worth the hike. A few kilometers beyond the old capital, near the village of Ban Phai, lies a jar site; the jars are located just off an old dirt road and unlike the jars at the three main sites are manufactured out of granite. 
 
That Fun:
 
Located in downtown Muang Khoun, That Fun was built in 1576- the same time as the original That Luang in Vientiane. The stupa was erected to cover ashes of Lord Buddha that were brought from India, during a time when Buddhism was proliferating in Laos.
 
Xieng Khouang Travel Tips
Xieng Khouang is a province in the northern Laos, and it is a offers the awesome beauty of high green mountains and rugged karsts formations include Laos tour packages 
 
The provincial capital of Xieng Khouang is Phonsavan, a town that was established when Muang Khun was wiped out during the Vietnam War. Nowadays, Xieng Khouang attracts more and more tourists to Southeast Asia thanks to the mysterious Plains of Jars.
 
The surrounding mountains in Xieng Khouang are breathtakingly beautiful, untouched, and home to several tribes of indigenous people with their colorful traditional dress and simple life style.
 
Its distance off the main tourist paths is the main reason why Xieng Khouang has been kept so pristine. However, the number of visitors to the Plain of Jars - which Unesco is working to establish as a World Heritage Site - has been on the increase year after year.

Get around
 
To get to other towns in the province you can take local buses or pick-up trucks. Inside Phonsavan there are plenty of Tuk-Tuks, which might not be available without prior booking very early in the morning or late at night. A normal tour of the town should cost 3000 to 10000 LAK. There are 9 travel agents in Phonsavan that arrange bike, motorbike, and car rentals.

A bike costs depending on quality from 20.000 Kip per day. You can rent mostly scooters for about 100.000 KIP. To rent a minivan costs about 50-80
USD,a 4WD costs over 100 USD. This includes or excludes gasoline, depending on the company. All prices vary hugely depending on season and availability.
 
Note: Tuk-Tuks are not allowed to take tourists to the Jar sites. You can visit the site with a certified guide or individually.

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