Xieng Khuang: a breath of fresh air
Welcoming Visit Laos Year 2018, Vientiane Times is publishing a series of feature articles and images inviting you to experience the authentic nature, culture, history and hospitality of Laos, Jewel of the Mekong.

So many people say it’s an interesting challenge driving to the north of the country because of all the mountains, and certainly it’s important that drivers are careful and observant when making their way through this area.
I made the trip north myself recently and sat next to the driver. I felt like I was riding a snake as we turned left and right, up and down over hundreds of hills with mountain ranges as far as the eye could see. We were travelling on a new road between Borikhamxay and Xieng Khuang provinces.
Sleep was impossible. You felt that you should be able to sleep but when you closed your eyes your head would not stop spinning. Finally we reached our destination in Xieng Khuang province after spending five to six hours on the road since leaving Vientiane.
The first thing that hits you is the cool weather and this was one of the things that brought me here, as well as the song Xieng Khuang Daen Ngam (Beautiful Xieng Khuang) written in 1968 by  Sor Bualaphanh which has lyrical descriptions of the province being a paradise with its pleasant climate, majestic mountains and refreshing environment.

Xieng Khuang’s forested roads make it a great place for cyclists.

It was partly these attributes that led a cycling group, who embarked on a trip with the aim of promoting Laos’ bucolic charms as part of Visit Laos Year 2018, to ride to Xieng Khuang. The year-round temperate climate is due to the province’s location at over 1,000 metres above sea level.
Almost 10 cyclists from Vientiane planned to visit a newly opened viewpoint on Phoukoud Chomlek mountain, from where one can see the province from every direction.
One morning last weekend the intrepid cyclists set out from Phonsavanh village in Paek district to ride to Phoukoud district over a distance of about 30km along Road No. 7 to the northwest.
The group rode through a stunning landscape of green hills past rural communities. But it was cold and fog descended.
It took almost two hours to reach the top of Phoukoud Chomlek mountain but they were unlucky as poor visibility obscured the view of the provincial capital, which they had been hoping to see.
The province’s Information, Culture and Tourism Department said an access road to the viewpoint had recently been built, along with a parking area and steps leading up to the viewpoint. On a clear day it’s a great spot from which to take photos of the panoramic scenes stretching far into the distance.
Several of the cyclists said that as Xieng Khuang is hosting the National Games this year they should include a cycle race because the terrain lent itself to a good race with the challenge of the hills, while the road was good. And of course the scenery provides a stunning backdrop.
Xieng Khuang has a long and fascinating history. One of its greatest attractions for tourists is the enigmatic Plain of Jars, along with Phia Vat temple, which is associated with the Indochina War when it was targeted by enemy aircraft.
The province has a rich culture, colourful ethnic groups, dazzling landscapes and many mysteries that visitors enjoy learning more about.
How to get there:
There are direct flights from Vientiane and some provinces to Xieng Khuang. Check schedules at http://www.laoairlines.com
By bus from Vientiane, you can take either a VIP or a local bus. They leave from the northern bus terminal and take about 10-12 hours. It is also possible to book a minivan in Vientiane. Please note that the roads are paved but there are plenty of bends. Another bus route heads south from Vientiane, a journey of eight or nine hours to Borikhamxay and then on to Xieng Khuang.


By Souknilundon Southivongnorath
(Latest Update February 3, 2018)

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