If you look at a map, it’s really not all that far from Luang Prabang to Phonsavan; that is if you could drive there in a straight line. In reality, it took our group of 5 plus guide and driver over 6 hours in a private van including several stops along the way. Our first stop was at the crest of the first mountain range that we came over. Really some beautiful vistas from there as shown below.
Our next stop was in the cross roads town in Xieng Khoung Province and our arrival coincided with school letting out the morning session. That allowed us to take some great pictures of some really beautiful children. Being lunch time, the morning market was busy with cooking and vendors selling grilled meats and other food as well as fresh produce.
After we left Xieng Khoung, we stopped in an ethnic minority village where we came across another group of school kids. As if a strange bunch of foreigners arriving wasn’t enough; a rain storm blew in, which created additional excitement.
From there, it was a long haul the rest of the way to Phonsavan, which lies very close to the border with Vietnam. In fact, a portion of the Ho Chi Min Trail, used by the North Vietnamese as a supply line during the American/Vietnam War actually runs in Lao very close to Phonsavan. We were told that during the war that the U.S, dropped more bombs in Lao than they did in Vietnam and to this day, local farmers are in danger of setting off unexploded ordinance.
The area is best known for the Plain of Jars, huge vessels scattered around several large fields outside of the town. There is no clear consensus about the purpose of the jars. Some say they were burial urns. Others say they were fresh water containers. My favorite explanation is that they were built to ferment and hold wine.
It had been a long day so we were happy to check into the Vansana Hotel. It’s in kind of an odd location down a gravel road past some local restaurant/bars but it does sit up at the top of a small hill for good views of the countryside in one direction and the town in the other. Hotel options in Phonsavan are limited but the Vansana is probably the nicest property in town.
Click here for a video that includes our stop in Xieng Khoung on the way to Phonsavan, a visit to the Plain of Jars, a silk weaving co-operative out in the countryside and other highlights of our visit to Phonsavan.