The Secret War (American-Vietnam War)

Sneak through a Secret Tunnel:

Scale more than 1.000 steps to reach a secret passageway slicing through the summit of the PhouKheng 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 metre long, 1.6 metre high tunnel chiseled through rock that wind past reinforced concrete bunkers and sleeping quarters before exiting to a panorama of the Phoukoud Valley.

MAGnificent Mine Busters: MAG in Xiengkhouan

The UK-based Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has embarked on the almost impossible mission of clearing hundreds of thousands of unexploded ordinances (UXOs) from XiengKhouang. 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.


Ancient Ruins of the Phuan Kingdom

Drive Back in Time

Explore ruins dating to the 14th century that crown the hills around the ancient Phuan Kingdom capital, MuangKhoun, 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 WatPiawat, first built in 1564, still sits erect overlooking MuangKhoun, though only the temple’s pillars and short wall section remain. Once buried in the forest, the 450 year old That FounStupa 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.

Khoun: The Old Phuan Kingdom

Witness the ancient Tai Phuan Kingdom at Khoun Town, just 36 km southeast of Phonsavanh on Lao Route 1 D. “MuangPhouan” prosperesd as a trade centre, but in the 14 century, the LanXang Kingdom moved in. Over the centuries, MuangPhuan become the centre for opulent Buddhist art and the architecture. Then the French arrived, adding a colonial touch.

Though bandits and bombs destroyed plenty, you can bike or walk to see leftover structures around Khoun Town. Check out a French colonial wall just off Route 1D, and near town an easy trail leads to Vat Phiawat’s sitting Buddha, built in 1564. Khoun Town’s most sacred temple, Vat Si Phoum, was leveled, though locals rebuilt it ad close by, examine a one-majestic French colonial hospital. Just north town, That Poun stand atop a knoll, and is said to over Buddha’s ashes. Nearby, the base of the 500-plus-year-old That Chompeth holds its ground on a shrubby hill.