There are two ancient stupas on the edge of Muang Khoun at the slope of surrounding hill. The best kept is the That Foun from 1576 - with ashes of the Lord which was brought from India. It was built by bricks which helped it to keep relatively good shape until today despite the weather and wars - and it can be still visited nowsadays. It's quite maginficent work; although now covered by grasses and mosses.
In the stupa there's narrow passage which let you take a look inside; but it's 'only' bricks that you can see. Although it stands there lonely it has some very special feel - maybe because spirits there.
Muang Khoun (old Xieng Khouang) used to be old capital of the province and place of noble architecture - because it was also capital for the Phuan kingdom buildings were built to accomodate people of higher social status with many temples and stupas. During the civil war it was completely destroyed - nowsadays visitor to that wounded place can see only few remains: temple of Si Phum with sitting Buddha, two very old stupas outside of the town and a few ruins of colonial architecture... altogether very little was left behind.
Wat Si Phum was built in 1582; in the picture you can see what is left of it. Since the Buddha statue didn't collapse during the assault it has special meaning to local people and festivals are held at the ruin. But the statue is damaged from bombs, indeed.
Beside the statue one can still see standing pillars of the temple - which once upon the time carried the roof.
New houses of cement are being built in the town, yet they don't get close to old grandeur. New capital is far away now and it is Phonesvanh that gets money for 'development'. I always wondered why they decided to give up the old capital.
There's market with pick up station in centre, short walking distance to anything what is worth to see.
Plain of Jars is the most common excuse to make a trip to Phonsavanh. There are 3 sites open to tourists: Site 1 is the closest - some 10 km southeast of the provincional capital. There were more than 50 sites recordered already.
In site 1 there are more than 250 jars altogether. Some of the biggest are larger than a man.
History of jars is very interesting although it's not always clear of their original purpose. It's most commonly believed they were funerary urns. Other more interesting stories include the belief that they were actually cups to drink from for giant men. Then another one says they were used to store the liquid and food.
Official history claims they were carved 2500 years ago in Iron Age. Most probebly they were brought here by outsiders. You can see by yourself that stone used for them isn't autochtonus for Xieng Khuang.
Best time to visit is in the morning before it gets too hot and crowded. Please don't climb the stones although you see many local tourists do it - it's nor allowed nor appropriate, nevertheless.
Admission fee is 10 000 KIP for a foreigner. There's small souvenir shop at the enrance but the shopkeeper prefered to play cards than sell.
It looks like most of travelers eat in Nisha: they have large Indian menu and some Lao dishes for fair price and food is delicious. Try different curries with garlic naan which I found very tasty here; and usually you pay between 10 000 KIP -15 000 KIP per dish for vegetarian variety (which they have many). Price of drink is about average than elsewhere in town.
Nisha has one restaurant in Vang Vieng and another one in Luang Prabang - I tried all of them: VV and PSV are the best of three so far and those two places look fairly clean.
This is small restaurant and bar next to MAG centre and other guesthouses on the main street. Has nice bamboo/wooden interior and friendly staff, few beers to choose and few dishes (Lao and western): I had really nice fish soup here (fish tom yum) once and ice cream occasionally. Price for the beer is ok - around 10 000 KIP for a big beer Lao bottle; food is a bit expensive comparing to other towns and you get little for what you pay. But this is not only in Crater, other PSV restaurants are about the same price range except Nihsa which has excellent foods and normal price.
Favorite Dish: They have delicious tom yum. Other than eating place more people seem to like to hang out with beer. They have quite large TV screen and football is on often.
That is just another typical bus station in Laos: few km from the city so you'll need to take a tuk tuk to get from/to there. We had to pay 15000 KIP for a ride to town and we didn't really have much choice unless we'd walk 4 kms with our bags.
Once weekly - on mondays - there's bus directly to Ha Noi, leaving early mornings. Few days weekly to Vinh.
Every morning at 8 am you can take mini bus to Xam Neua, 60 000 KIP for about 8-9 hrs long travel. We didn't go to the station - we waited in town for bus to pass the old bus station, then we got on. If you ask in the GH they tell you to go to the station, but it's no need (for this direction) as it pass the main street and all those guesthouses. The scenery between the two provincial capitals is one of the nicest in Laos and it's very scarcely populated, with lots of rain forests and hills. The bus will stop at the provincial border town for a lunch, somewhere the half way.
There are few travel agencies in town who arrange tours to PJ sites and other places of interest, charging 150 000 KIP for a day tour. Us two had decided to rent a motorbike: there are a few places where you can rent from or ask at your guest house: we paid 100 000 KIP for one day (means from 9 am to 7 pm) + passport deposit. With that you won't see as much as you'd see on tour but it's perfect if you like to go your own ways and stay there as long as you like.