Phonsavan City- Xieng Khouang

Discussion in 'Laos Road Trip Reports' started by DavidFL, Jun 13, 2016.

  1. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Phonsavan is the capital city of Xieng Khouang province.
    It was built & made the capital in 1970 after Muang Khoun the old capital was destroyed by bombing in the Indochina war.

    Located in the centre of the Plain of Jars, Phonsavan is at an altitude of 1,100 metres & is cool all year round.

    The Xieng Khouang plateau is rolling countryside - and is believed to be an old lakebed. It is a natural grassland, devoid of trees, the soils are acidic, with a high aluminium saturation, low in nitrogen and phosphorus = poor for agriculture ( & I first thought it was because of the bombing, but not necessarily so).


    The main street into Phonsavan town is a long & winding one, that used to look a bit like the setting for a cowboy movie; although it is changing fast now with loads of construction going on.


    finally a start, more to come.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
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  3. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    There's a healthy mix of different people in Phonsavan & it always feels as if you are "somewhere else" when there.
    There are Phuan people, Khamu, loads of Hmong plus Tai Dam, Vietnamese & Chinese.

    The town is booming with constructiion going on everywhere.

    Because of the war & the revolution Phonsavan & Xieng Khouang is sometimes referred to as the birthplace of Laos.

    There are new statues celebrating their victories & the efforts of the Lao-Vietnamese brothers / soldiers in their struggle against the West.





    & if you wanted to make money the cement business would be a good way to go.
    Last edited: Jun 18, 2016
  4. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    An attempt at a summary of some Phonsavan / Xieng Khouang War History


    From 1965 to 1973, the civil war moved back and forth in northern Laos, characterized by short but often very intense engagements.

    In October 1964, in response to an offensive by the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese to expel the Neutralists from the Plain of Jars, the United States began providing air support against Pathet Lao positions and North Vietnamese supply lines.
    However, it was not until March 1966 at Phoukout, northwest of the Plain of Jars, that the Pathet Lao started to win major battles against the Royal Lao Army.
    In July 1966, the Pathet Lao won another major battle in the Nam Bak Valley in northern Luang Prabang Province by overrunning a Royal Lao Army base and inflicting heavy casualties. These victories gave the Pathet Lao new momentum in the war for control of Laos; & the Royalist Lao army never recovered such were their losses at Nam Bak.

    Throughout 1968, the communists slowly advanced across the northern part of Laos, defeating Laotian forces time and time again.
    On 6 August 1969 Hmong forces launched a major counterattack against the communists on the Plain of Jars and in the Xieng Kouang area, supported by air power.
    The offensive was a success due not to American airpower, but to unseasonably rainy weather. 46 inches (as opposed to the normal 16) fell in July, cutting sharply into the communist logistical flow.
    After the weather broke, the Hmong were supported by 145 sorties per day. Communist forces, cut off from resupply, fled to the west.
    For the first time since 1961 all of the strategic Plain of Jars was under government control. This course of events led Ambassador Sullivan to declare: "We believe that damage to the enemy represents the best results per sortie by tactical air in Southeast Asia." That summer, sorties throughout the had risen from an average of 300 missions per month to an average 200 sorties per day.

    However it didnt last long.

    The Vietnamese regrouped & were reinforced by the remaining two regiments of the 312th Division (the 165th and 209th), the refitted 316th Division, the 866th PAVN Infantry Regiment], the 16th PAVN Artillery Regiment, a tank company, six sapper and engineer battalions and ten Pathet Lao battalions.
    They attacked again & by the 20th February 1970 the Plain of Jars had been taken.
    Royal Lao forces withdrew to Muang Soui and five days later they abandoned Xieng Khouang.
    The communist forces occupied the entire Plain of Jars.

    Angry at the loss Muang Soui, Lao Prime Minister Souvanna Phouma requested that Khang Khai be bombed. Khang Khai was the seat of a Souvanna Phouma's "neutralist" goverment, recognized by the Chinese & Russians. A Chinese cultural misson was situated there. While the US oficials debated bombing such a delicate target (in the non existent war) a Raven Forward Air Controller directed an air strike using a laser-guided bomb on a communist radio station on the outskirts of Khang Khai. An "errant cloud misguided" the bomb; it struck the Chinese cultural mission. The resulting explosion of stored munitions leveled everything within a quarter mile, including the broadcast equipment. Much to the U.S. State Department's surprise, there was no subsequent complaint from the Chinese about the bombing. Khang Khai was obilterated.

    On 18 March 1970 Xam Thong fell and Vang Pao's stronghold at Long Tieng was threatened and, for the first time since 1962, Pathet Lao forces were camped within sight of the royal capital of Luang Prabang.

    As a stop gap, Washington approved Operation Goodlook, the first usage of Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers in northern Laos.
    On 25 April 1970 the battered communist forces fell back, but the 316th PAVN Division and the 866th PAVN Infantry Regiment remained behind to assist the Pathet Lao.

    On 21 May 1972 Royal Lao and Hmong forces, supported by air strikes, attempted to retake the Plain of Jars.
    The fighting raged for 170 days (until 15 November), but the communists could not be evicted. PAVN and the Pathet Lao claimed to have killed 1,200 enemy troops and to have captured 80. The communists made additional gains during the year, but failed to overwhelm government forces.

    A (partial) cease-fire went into effect on 22 February 1973.
    But Tha Vieng south of Phonsavan was bombed one more time in support of retreating government forces.
    On 5 April 1974 a coalition government was finally established.
    "Peace" was at hand.
  5. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Modern day Phonsavan

    The town is surrounded by hills & if you're lucky you can build a resort or hotel on them


    The views are stupendous but I'm not sure about the solid construction.

    Rural Phonsavan


    The new re landscaped city Nam Ngum lake & park to be

    A couple of Wats




    at 1,1000 metres Phonsavan is a cool town to hang out in.
    Last edited: Jun 15, 2016
  6. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Phonsavan has a new bypass road to the west of town
    It runs for 10 kms & swings around west of the airport & the Plain of Jars Site 1

    around the back of the airport & Site 1 Plain of Jars


    theres even a new golf course in here!



    one unfinished section of the new bypass

    The Bypass starts on R7 8 kms west of Phonsavan & comes out south of town on R1D 5,6 kms from the junction of R7. At the south R1D end it links up with the road to Site 1 Plain of Jars.
  7. ianyonok

    ianyonok Ol'Timer

    An interesting bit of history, Thank you. Good info on the town too. Those rain clouds look about to get ya..
  8. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The tourist office has moved further out & is on the entrance road to the airport now.

    they have an informative display with lots of brochures



    they are open every day
    except for a healthy 2-hour lunch break.
    So don't rock up between 11.30-1.30PM or you will be disappointed.

    GPS Location: N19 26.819 E103 10.903
  9. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    The Plain of Jars is the main tourist attraction for Phonsavan
    There are multiple sites identified now
    but the main site Site 1 is just 7 kms from the centre of town.


    If you want to know more about the Jars check out these GTR Threads
    An Easy Road to Laos - 3 Plain of Jars
    Phu Keng Jar Quarry site, also known as Keng Mountain. Phonsavan Jars with steps.

    Chiang Mai - Muang Sing - Phonsavan - Vientiane - Chiang Mai.

    Chiang Mai – Xam Nua Return

    Its also worth checking out Mouang Khoun just 27 kms south of Phonsavan
    Muang Khoun - Xieng Khouang - The Ancient Royal Capital
    Last edited: Oct 20, 2016
  10. DavidFL

    DavidFL Administrator Staff Member

    Downtown Phonsavan the fabulous old market is gone & in its place a huge construction site & crane
    The area was closed off & I could not work out what was going on, but now "i know" = a Chinese shopping mall!

    Somkod also stirred up trouble last October with some local vendors by ordering them to leave the provincial agricultural market in Peak district and giving the land concession to a Chinese investor to build a shopping mall, said a source who declined to be named.
    The vendors had rented the land from former provincial authorities for many decades and have a current lease that expires in 2017, he said.
    Now that the vendors have been relocated to a temporary market near the former provincial airport about one kilometer away, they complain that they can no longer sell as many products in the new location, he said.
    “The governor has removed the vendors to that market, and in the meantime he has allowed a Chinese businessman to set up slot machines, nightclubs, and guesthouses with sex workers in the former market area,” he said.
    The vendors tried to take action against Somkod for the land grab, but they were threatened with imprisonment, he said.
    In Laos, where all land belongs to the state, several provincial governors and family members of national leaders have been involved in land grabs, not only because the land in urban areas is expensive, but also because they can profit by selling the land to other people or companies that grow rubber plantations.
    Rights groups say the illegal appropriations violate basic human rights, including the right to food, housing, and prevention of forced eviction.
    Source: Lao Restaurant Owner to Get Justice in Land-Grab Case

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