Xieng Khouang

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Xieng Khouang consists of six districts Muang Khoune, Muang Phonsavanh, Muang Nong Hai, Muang Kham, Muang Mork, and Muang Phou Koud. Situated in the northeastern remote provinces of Laos, the area was part of the Ho Chi Minh Trail, where troops, supplies and artillery were smuggled out of northern Vietnam and through the mountains on the eastern edge of the country, and subsequently into southern Vietnam. While the vast majority of people reading this will be aware of the Vietnam War fought between 1963 to 1974, fewer know that a large part of the war was fought in Laos, giving the country the dubious title of being ‘the most bombed country in the world’.

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Xieng Khouang, Laos

During the space of eleven years, the equivalent of one bomb was dropped every eight minutes. In total, two million tonnes of ordinance was dropped on Laos, more than on Germany and Japan combined during the Second World War. As a result the vast majority of sights within the province are dedicated to paying respects to the great tragedy that was inflicted on the area and its people.

Attractions

The Plain Of Jars: The Plain of Jars is considered the most distinctive and enigmatic of all Laos attractions. The large area around Phonsavan, the main city of Xieng Khouang Province is dotted with stone jars but no one has a clear idea as to why they are there.

The mysterious jars were carved from both sandstone and granite in various sizes from very small to about 3.5 metres high and are thought to be more than 2,000 years old. Legend has it that they were made to store rice wine while some believe they were for storing the dead. Until today the function of the jars is still disputed.

Mulberries Organic Silk Farm in Phonsavan: Among other things, the province of Xieng Khouang has always been synonymous with fine Laotian silk, the tradition of which dates back for centuries. Mulberries Organic Silk Farm, in the Phonsavan District of Xieng Khouang Province, is an establishment that aims to promote silk production as a way to generate income to families in surrounding areas while preserving the vanishing art of Laotian weaving.

This non-profit company, certified both by Fairtrade and Lao Organic Department, grows their own chemical-free mulberry trees. Mulberry leaves are the staple diet of silk worms, which are raised here for four months, after which their silk cocoon is collected and reeled. The dyeing process that follows makes use of indigenous plants (such as indigo, jackfruit, and tamarind), which produce deep and rich colours.

Once the thread is spun, it is given to village women who take them home to weave in their spare time. The silk farm then buys back the finished products to sell in their gift shops here and in Vientiane. Prior to that, the women attend workshops and learn how to make and use natural dyes, and the complex art of incorporating traditional designs into their creations.

Visitors can view all the silk making process right here in the house. There are guided tours in English. If you are lucky enough, you may catch a glimpse of Miss Kommaly, who will tell you how she started this environmental-friendly cooperative 20 years ago. Her tireless work to empower local women and ethnic minority groups by raising their incomes through weaving earned her the 2005 nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Mulberries gift shop features beautiful plain silk scarves in a variety of rich colours, patterned throws and cushion covers and fabrics by the metre. Some patterns and home furnishing fabrics can be ordered.

Mulberries Silk Farm in Xieng Khouang Province can be reached by plane from Vientiane. Lao Airlines operates three flights a week from Vientiane to Xieng Khouang. There is also a bus service from Vientiane that takes about 10 hours. If you can’t travel to Xieng Khouang, there is a Mulberries shop in Vientiane selling the same products.

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