|WARNING: Xaisomboun Province is considered, by some governments, as a very dangerous part of Laos as a result of civil unrest, and armed clashes and attacks on infrastructure by anti-government groups that have occurred in July 2020. Some governments advise against non-essential travel to this province.|
Government travel advisories
|(Information last updated 17 Aug 2020)|
Central Laos shares borders with Thailand and Vietnam, as well as with Northern and Southern Laos.
From north to south:
- Hua Phan — Bordering Vietnam, this region contains former Pathet Lao caves near Vieng Xai. The regional capital is Sam Neua.
- Xiangkhoang — The regional capital is Phonsavan and this province is popular for the Plain of Jars.
- Vientiane — Home to the capital, Vientiane and backpacker favourite Vang Vieng.
- Bolikhamxai — The regional capital is Paksan.
- Khammuan — The regional capital is Tha Khaek.
- 1 Ban Nahin
- 2 Paksan
- 3 Phonsavan - access point for the Plain of Jars.
- 4 Sam Neua - for access to Vieng Xai.
- 5 Tadlo
- 6 Tha Khaek - a popular base for exploring the Phou Hin Boun National Park including the famous Konglor Cave.
- 7 Vang Vieng - riverside town known for backpackers and tubing.
- 8 Vieng Xai - famous for the Pathet Lao caves.
- 9 Vientiane - Laos' capital.
- 1 Phou Khao Khouay National Protected Area
- 2 Plain of Jars - hundreds of mysterious stone jars strewn across several sites.
What is now Xaisomboun Province (since December 2013) used to be a region during the Vietnam War where the US military recruited Hmong people as support against the North Vietnamese Army. The east of the province still sees unexploded ordnance. With the end of the Vietnam War, the new communist government of Laos singled out Hmong that supported the US for retribution and committed atrocities against the Hmong people. Due to the subsequent Hmong conflict the government introduced the Xaisomboun Special Zone that existed from 1994 to 2006 and was sealed off for foreigners. Even after resolving the Special Zone, as late as 2011, there have been reports of foreign motorcyclists being asked to turn back, pay hefty fines or being detained for entering the area. Now the province sees efforts to open it up to tourism, with 2016 as 'Visit Xaisomboun Year'.
The best way to get around is via motorcycle, almost all roads are dirt roads. Hitchhiking might be possible however traffic is very low. There seems to be boat service on Nam Ngum 2 Lake from the south-west end to the east end of the lake.
- Plain of Jars - hundreds of mysterious stone jars strewn across several sites.
- Chao Anouvong’s Cave. Close to the capital.
- Phou Bia. Highest mountain of Laos, close to the capital. Might become accessible with the new tourism efforts in the province.
- Nam Ngum 2 Hydroelectric Power Project. Dam and lake upstream from the Nam Ngum 1 dam. Road 9308 south from Ban Nongpou offers gorgeous views onto the lake from above, but does not lead straight to the shore of the lake (unlike indicated on some maps). To get to the shore from the west, either take road Nr. 5 from Tha Heua, or a side road in Naxay Savang. Completed in 2011 and the lake now covers some villages and roads that are still present on some outdated maps on its ground.
- Long Tieng (On the road from Phonsavan.). Town and secret air base during the Vietnam War.
- Nang Phone Home Cave. Cave system signposted on the roadside from Pha Tang towards Ban Xuang. Has sections to explore on foot and a river passing through that you can swim in. 10000 kip.