"The wild, wild, wild side....." Ban Phonsavan by mke1963

Ban Phonsavan Travel Guide: 71 reviews and 101 photos

You wait for the tumbleweed to blow across your path in Phonsavan, a town lying some 1600 metres above the sea in one of South East Asia's most strategic plains.
It has a Dodge City feel to the place, a mixture of dudes on motorbikes, farmers in pick-ups, traders from afar, locals scouring the visitors for signs of being friend or foe. Vehicles park head-in across the dusty lots in front of the shophouses. Chickens squawk their way in a blurry fluster of feathers and indignation out of the way of traffic.
We wait for the Lao Clint Eastwood to turn the corner in a poncho, chewing a matchstick, hands pitched by the belt, waiting for the quick draw.
This is a country with a blighted past, an uncertain present and a worrying future.

Phonsavan is a new town, courtesy of American "B-52 urban planning" in the 1960s and early 1970s which reduced this town and every single town, village and house to dust over the entire plain. There are few old trees, barely an old brick for many, many kilometres.
The hills around the town are grassy, bare and a mix of golden yellow and purple from the earth. Occasionally a surviving tree stands on a bare ridge: one spectacular example can be seen looking south from the airport. You can see for a great distance at the low hills and ridges, but there is just one, solitary slender fir tree to break the hazy horizontal lines: just the one. You could give every tree older than thirty years old a name in this area.

Phonsavan is, therfore, a modern town, but not without interest. The biggest accessible neolithic jar site is just a few kilometres beyond the airport, and there are good walks in the area (but stay strictly to the worn paths...to the inch!!).
Listen to the stories of the people and their families, and look to see how they have worked ceaselessly to recreate their farms and their livelihoods.
The mainly Phuan and Hmong people of the area take much pride in their achievements in the last 30 years, and it is a place that deserves a longer stay. The economic disintegration, together with US funding of insurgents in the area mean that there is shady money in town - look at the disproportionate number of grandiose villa houses in the area; look, but best not to inquire!

Phonsavan derves a break; it deserves a future which is planned, directed and implemented by the hard-working community. I would urge you to visit, spend some time, spend some money, and contribute to this special area.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:A proud, dynamic people; landscapes and history
  • Cons:The tragic legacy of war
  • In a nutshell:Visit Phonsavan!
  • Last visit to Ban Phonsavan: Dec 2003
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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  • aemilys's Profile Photo
    Jul 31, 2006 at 5:03 AM

    Thanks for the very useful info - I hope to be in Phonsavan this August


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