Xieng Khuang is a province in northern Laos. It is becoming more and more famous among tourists to Southeast Asia, as it is the place to view the mysterious Plains of Jars. The best way to reach Xieng Khuang - as we did - is to fly from Vientiane, the capital of Laos.
Xieng Khuang presently (2006) has a population of about 200,000. It was heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, mostly by the Americas. Today, twenty years after the war, there are still UXO's (Unexploded Ordnance, that's to say, mines, shells, grenades, bombs) that continue to injure and maim the folks in this rural province.
For much of its history, Xieng Khuang has been something of a battleground, the reason mostly due to its location, between the capitals of Laos and Vietnam. As it is a highlands plain, the weather here is pleasantly cool, and during the end of the year, can get quite chilly at night.
Xieng Khuang was briefly ruled by the Lao Kingdom of Lan Xang. The Siamese and Vietnamese have also ruled it at other times. When Vietnam annexed it in 1830, the local inhabitants were forced to adopt Vietnamese dressing and custom. Any attempts by the proudly independent Xieng Khuang people to be independent have usually been thwarted by one of its many powerful neighbors.
The provincial capital of Xieng Khuang is Phonsavan, a town that was established when an earlier capital was wiped out during the Vietnam War.
Plain of Jar ( Xieng Khuang)
In the 18th and at the beginning of the 19th century, Xieng Khuang was the center of a kingdom of the Hmong (Meo). In 1832, it was conquered by the Vietnamese, annexing the entire region.
The town of Xieng Khuang was totally destroyed during the Vietnam War. Even though it has been rebuilt in 1975, the name Xieng Khuang is now primarily used in reference to the province of the same name.
The provincial capital is Muang Kham. The most important place near the Plain of Jars is Phonsavan with a small airport serving the region.
The Plain of Jars is some 10 kilometers southeast of Phonsavan, at about 1,000 meters above sea level. Scattered over the plain are hundreds of enormous clay jars, each about 1 to 2.5 meters high, with a diameter of about 1 meter.
There is still no explanation as to how the clay jars found their way onto the plain, or what purpose they served. Archaeologists have come up with the wildest theories, among them a claim declaring them brewery cauldrons. More likely, the jars are enormous urns.
Many jars have been destroyed or damaged during the Vietnam War, when American planes bombed positions of the communist Pathet Lao.