In Laos there are three distinct seasons; cool and dry (November to mid-February): hot (mid February to mid-May); rainy (June-October). During the rainy season the country is very green with emerald rice paddies and forested mountains stretching as far as the eye can see. In November the rain gives way to a cooler dry season and it gets quite hot in March and April. However, the climate in Xieng Khouang is significantly cooler than Vientiane due to its high elevation; temperatures seldom exceed 30° C during the warm season and may approach 0° C at night in the cold season.
Laos is the least populated country is South East Asia, with about 7.17 million inhabitants in 2019 and an annual population growth of 2.3 %. Roughly 80 % of the population lives in rural areas. Although few in absolute numbers, within the population of Laos there is tremendous ethnic diversity with 49 officially recognized main ethnic groups. About 50 % of the population comprises culturally distinct ethnic minority groups, each with their own rich culture and traditions.
The population of Xieng Khouang Province was estimated at 251,334 in 201. Most people live in one of the provinces 570 small rural villages and practice agriculture and raise livestock. The most populous ethnic group in Xieng Khouang is Tai Phuan that comprise 40 % of the population. The Tai Phuan are classified as lowland Lao. They are traditional paddy rice farmers that supplement their livelihoods by fishing, collecting non-timber forest products and producing handicrafts.
The Hmong migrated from China to Laos in the 19th century and usually occupy the high mountains practicing rotating agriculture and raising livestock. In northern Laos, the Hmong are most populous in Xieng Khouang province (38, 4 %). Other ethnic minorities include Tai Dam, Tai Deng and Khmu people. Phonsavanh has a sizeable population of people from Viet Nam and China running small businesses.
The largest contributor to Laos’ Gross Domestic Product is agriculture which provides a living for 80 % of the population. The principal crop is sticky rice but corn, tobacco, cotton and coffee are also grown. Raising livestock for domestic and regional consumption is an important economic activity. The primary national industries include hydropower, tin and gold mining, timber, tourism, garment manufacture and agro-forestry.
In Xieng Khouang the most important agricultural crops consist of rice and corn alongside cash crops such as cassava and peanuts. Cattle and buffalo raising is a significant contributor to rural household income. Timber industry plays an important role in the local economy. The Fujian cypress (Fokienia), locally called Mai Long Leng and the Red Sandalwood (Pterocarpus) produce a very durable wood and are greatly valued for furniture. Harvest of non-timber forest products such as resins, herbal medicine and forest foods for commercial and home use are also very important contributors to the local economy and rural people’s livelihoods. Important non-farming activities in the province are silk weaving, embroidery, basketry, umbrella making, blacksmithing, broom making, and food processing. Tourism is the second biggest industry in Xieng Khouang.
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 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.
Subsequent invasions by Chinese marauders called “Haw” plundered Luang Prabang and Xieng Khouang, and the Franco-Siamese treaties of the 1890’s placed Xieng Khouang under colonial rule as part of French Indochina until briefly after World War II.
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, Xiengkhouang 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. Of several Muong Khoun Buddhist temples built between the 16th and 19th century, only ruins remain. Vat Pia Vat, however, survived the bombing and can be visited.
Located 381 km northeast of Vientiane capital city, Xieng Khouang province has a population of 251,334 spread over ran approximate area of 15,830 sq km. It is one of the 17 provinces of Lao PDR, located in the north-central area of the country, on the mountainous Tran-ninh plateau. Xieng Khouang includes seven districts: Paek, Phaxay, Phoukoot, Kham, Nong Hét, Khoun 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-laying basin set at around 600 m above sea level.
Xieng Khouang enjoys a remarkable geographical location, surrounded by mountain ranges, with Phu Bia (2700 m) the highest peak in Lao PDR. The province sits at the crossroads of traffic from central Vietnam and northeast Thailand. Historically, these two powerful neighbors – Siam and Vietnam – have vied for control of its soil.
The province shares borders with Huaphan, Luang Prabang, Vientiane, Xaisomboun and Bolikhamxai 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, Erdu, Phong and Tai Dam.
Xieng Khouang is home to the Plain of Jars the World Heritage site, the prehistoric stone megaliths which attract more than a hundred thousand of tourists to the province each year. The area is of significant archaeological importance on account also of the standing stones in nearby Huaphan province.
Until briefly after World War II, the French used Xieng Khouang town, present-day Muang Khoun town, as their provincial capital. A few ruinous colonial public buildings remain to this day, such as the governor’s residence, church and French school.
A total of 149 tourist sites were recorded in Xieng Khouang in 2019, and 42 tourist sites were official open, consisting of 12 natural sites, 18 cultural sites and 12 historical sites (2018 Statistical Report on Tourism in Laos, published by the MICT ). The same publication reports that visitors to the province increased from 130,261 in 2017 to 144,728 in 2018 and that the total number of hotels: 20, guesthouses:129, resorts: 3, restaurants: 121, entertainment and karaoke: 8, food gardens 6 and Phattakan 4 (in 2019).
Phonsavan, the new provincial capital, is located in Peak district and caters to increasing numbers of national and international tourists, eager to experience Xieng Khouang’s natural, historical and archaeological attractions. The airport in Phonsavan is served by regular flights from Vientiane by Lao Airlines.
The Provincial Tourist Information Centre is located 3 km from Phonsavan town centre, the way to the Xieng khouang Airport. The office is open daily from 08.00 to 16.00 and the English-speaking staff can be contacted on +856 (0)61 312 217 or +856 (0)20 55561980. Email: email@example.com (www: xiengkhouangtourism.com; www.tourismlaos.org).
The landscape is characterized by high green mountains, rugged karst formations and verdant valleys with plenty of rivers, caves and waterfalls. The Plain of Jar consists of grassland hills surrounded by steeper forested hills and higher mountains. Xieng Khouang is home to four of the five highest mountains in Laos with elevations up to 2,800 meters. The valley bottoms and plateau areas are converted into paddy fields, cattle and buffalo move around everywhere. Upper slope areas and mountain ridges are used for upland farming in a rotation of Sweden and fallows. The temperate highlands are dominated by extensive pine forests; oaks and chestnuts are the dominant tree species in moist evergreen and dry evergreen hill forests.
In XiengKhouang, there are 18 hotels, 3 resorts and over 113guest houses. With prices from $US10 – $US85 per night
Phonesavanh xay Village, Peak district, XiengKhouang Province.
Phonsavan Tai Village, Paek District, Xieng Khouang Province.
Phonkham village, Peak district, Xiengkhouang province