Like a rural scene from an old Asian silk painting, Vang Vieng (ວັງວຽງ) crouches low over the Nam Song (Song River) with a backdrop of serene cliffs and a tapestry of vivid green paddy fields. Thanks to the Lao government closing the river rave bars in 2012, the increasingly toxic party scene has been driven to the fringes and the community is rebooting itself as an adrenaline-fuelled adventure destination with some impressive accommodation options on tap. The town itself is no gem, as concrete hotels build ever higher in search of the quintessential view, but across the Nam Song lies a rural idyll.
Xieng Khouang is home to the Plain of Jars, the prehistoric stone megaliths which attracts thousands of tourists to the province each year. (The Lao government is currently finalising 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.
Phonsavanh, the new provincial capital, is located in Paek district and caters to increasing numbers of national and international tourists, eager to experience Xieng Khouang’s natural, historical and archaeological attractions. The new airport in Phonsavanh is served by regular flights from Vientiane by Lao Airlines.
- Trek to beautiful limestone caves, some above ground and some below, and swim in their spring-fed pools.
- Take a private boat trip along the Nam Song River, one of Laos’ most scenic waterways.
- Under the guidance of a local chef, prepare authentic, organic Lao dishes using traditional recipes and techniques.
- Caves were used for shelter during the bombing; hospitals, schools included. Weapons and medical supplies were also stored in the caves, two of which are open for public viewing.Tham Piu Cave and Tham Xang Cave are worth spending times to see and the road journey through the great countryside adds to the experience.
- The small, landlocked country of Laos is best visited between October and April, when the weather’s warm and dry throughout. River travel is best between November and January, when high water levels make passage easy along Laos' main waterway, the Mekong River. Visiting the Bolaven Plateau is also pleasant at this time of year. Laos’ geography plays a major part in shaping its climate, and cool temperatures can still be found in the highlands, which lie mainly in northern, eastern and central regions. The 'green season’ falls between late May and October, when the rains return to the country. However, showers are usually short and sharp, having little impact on your exploration. At this time of year the country comes to life, with waterfalls beginning to flow once more and the lush scenery attracting a variety of wildlife.
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Vang Vieng: The best time to visit Vang Vieng is during the dry season from November to March, when temperatures are somewhat cooler. March to May is the hot season and the temperatures can reach 40ºC or higher. The wet season runs from May to October and the rains can make traveling around the surrounding area difficult.
Xieng Khuoang: There is a wet and dry season with the monsoon rains coming between May and October. However there is no real reason not to visit any time of the year and this Laos travel guidecertainly would not suggest that those wet months mean that visitors should stay away.