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You’ll climb 1,000 stairs to a secret wartime hilltop tunnel, explore centuries-old religious sites around the ancient Phuan Kingdom capital of Muang Khoun, investigate the famous Plain of Jars, visit a village that makes spoons from scraps of crashed warplanes, and uncover the efforts of the Mines Action Group (MAG) in clearing the province’s live unexploded ordinance (UXOs), some more than 45 years old.

Scale more than 1,000 steps to reach a secret passageway slicing through the summit of the Phou Kheng Jar Quarry Site that played a strategic role for Pathet Lao forces during the Indochina War (1964-1973). The hardly climb passes an odd mix of bomb craters and unfinished or broken jars destined for Jar Site 1. The steps get steeper, but the reward is a magnificent view of the valley around Phonsavanh and the hidden entrance to a narrow 70 metres long, 1,6 metre high tunnel chiseled through rock that winds past reinforced concrete bunkers and sleeping quarters before exiting to a panorama of the Phoukoud Valley.


Explore ruins dating to the 14th century that crown the hills around the ancient Phuan Kingdom capital, Muang Khoun, which was leveled during the Indochina War. A 30km drive southeast of Phonsavanh passes a stone wall with brick archways, leftovers of France’s colonial presence. The giant Buddha at Wat Piawat, first built in 1564, still sits erect overlooking Muang Khoun, though only the temple’s pillars and short wall section remain. Once buried in the forest, the 450 years old That Foun Stupa stands tall next to a road outside town, and though bombing raids mostly destroyed Wat Si Phom, enough remains to envision its glory when constructed in 1390.


No one goes to Xieng Khouang without inspecting the mysterious Plain of Jars. But, with thousands of massive ancient urns scattered over dozens of sites, and other attractions to see in the province, your most efficient bet is a short trip from......


Setting your sights to see spoon production may sound eccentric, but Ban Napia, an ethnic Phuan village just south of Phonsavanh, mounds this tableware from war scrap. One day in the 1980s, eight families brainstormed over what to do with all the aluminum bits from downed aircraft. One person noted a lack spoons in the market and noodle shops, so they made wooden mounds, coated them in ash, and poured in the melted junk. And according to the ladle lady, they have an unending supply of debris. You can bookend your spoon tour with stops at nearby Lang Waterfall and Jar Site 3.


The UK-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has embarked on the almost impossible mission of clearing hundreds of thousands of unexploded ordinances (UXOs) from Xieng Khouang. The MAG Visitor Information Centre in Phonsavanh provides in-depth history into the intense bombing campaign, the legacy it left behind as the most densely bombed area per capita on earth, facts on the injuries and deaths UXOs continue to cause, diagrams of how cluster bombs work, and even a few diffused shells, the highlight, a one-hour unbiased documentary detailing the bombing’s background, appeals to an audience ranging from people born before the war, those who grew up during the era, and veterans who fought.

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