Xaysomboun: an ideal place for a winter excursion

The dry season is the peak tourist season in Laos and December is the best time for travel because the weather is perfect and the countryside is clothed in green after months of rain.


The town of Anouvong nestled in the hills of Xaysomboun province. PHOTO: VIENTIANE TIMES

December 5, 2023

VIENTIANE – Vientiane Times is publishing a series of articles in relation to Laos’ Asean Chairmanship, the Asean Tourism Forum, and Visit Laos Year, all taking place in 2024.

The dry season is the peak tourist season in Laos and December is the best time for travel because the weather is perfect and the countryside is clothed in green after months of rain.

These days people are always on the lookout for a new place to visit, especially with New Year’s Eve on the horizon, and some Lao people like to find a romantic spot with dramatic views where they can pitch a tent for the night.

A number of visitors highly recommends Xaysomboun province as a good choice for a special night and the Phou Hualone hill range in Anouvong district would provide a great location to see in the New Year.

Some people might consider Xaysomboun province to be unsafe due to the role it played during the so-called Secret War in the 1960s and 70s but the truth is that today this area is the most peaceful and safe place in Laos.

Many people who have been there say that Anouvong district is the second Switzerland in Laos after Xieng Khuang province, because of its dramatic landscapes, majestic mountains and swathes of green grass. Xaysomboun is home to the highest mountain in Laos, called Phou Bia.

Anouvong is the provincial capital and is gaining a reputation as a tourist destination thanks to its scenic location and the fact that it’s easy to get around because the town is small.

One of the main features of the town is the Hor Lak Meuang (Central Hall). The district is developing fast but it’s not the buildings and other man-made structures that draw visitors to Xaysomboun, so it’s better to get out of town in search of more interesting places.

The hike to the top of the Phou Hualone hill range is the highlight of Anouvong district as far as this writer is concerned. The area is stunningly beautiful and there are great views of the green rolling hills and you get the feeling that the scene was created as if by magic.

Most people like to climb to the top and now is a great time of the year for the hike because the mist that floats among the hills is magical and creates an ethereal atmosphere. Standing at the top brings a huge sense of refreshment as you breathe in lungfuls of fresh air and wait for the sky to be flooded with a stunning sunset or sunrise.

Some 4km outside the town is another attraction, Chao Anouvong Cave. This is a double cave and is very striking, especially when you peer out from the inside and see the high mountains above. Legend has it that Chao Anouvong hid in this cave to conceal his presence from his enemies.

Another place to look out for is the viewpoint at Ban Phou Huaxang where it’s possible to camp on the rocks and get another panoramic view of the town.

Vang Nam Khiew is a wonderful place for lunch where you can sit or lie down in wooden huts by a small river. This restaurant also provides a great view of the mountains and a clean stream where you can swim or play in the water.

After visiting these viewpoints, you should next head to Longchaeng district where there is building that was used in 1966 by Vang Pao, who was a Major-General in the Royal Lao Army and later headed up the Hmong-American community in the United States.

There’s also a building reputed to have been occupied by the last King of Laos, Chao Sisavang Vatthana, built in 1967.

These buildings are a bit dilapidated but have their own fascination because of their historical significance. It seems there are no plans to use them for any special purpose but a few officials stay there to ensure their upkeep.

Longchaeng became famous as the base for the CIA’s secret war in Laos, when it was called Longchaeng.

This place is one of the most awe-inspiring locations in Laos, not only because of these historic buildings but because of the views over the district, which have been likened to paradise on earth.

San Phou Mok (Fog Mountain) is another unforgettable spot where you can truly feel that you must be in heaven as you gaze in awe at the swirling mist that silently wreathes the hills. Because of its hilly location, this district is very misty, causing some people to refer to it as a sea of fog.

There’s also an intriguing temple to see in the town which was built at the same time as Patuxay in Vientiane in about 1966.

Xaysomboun province is worthy of attention during Visit Laos Year 2024 because of its scenic grandeur and a visit is advised as soon as possible before it is discovered by developers.

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