Houaphanh (or Hua Phan) is a charming province in the east of Laos, and also a friendly home to various ethnic groups. Traveling to this off-the-beaten-track destination, people feel like they’re stepping into a new found world where ethnic culture meets with the natural beauty. Many interesting things wait for you in Houaphanh in Laos.
About Houaphanh in Laos
Situated in the eastern Laos, Houaphanh Province is one of the greatest destination for ecotourism and ethnic culture experience. The province is encompassed by Xiangkhouang Province to the south and southwest and Luang Prabang Province to the west. It shares the international border with Vietnam to the north, east, and southeast. About the local terrain, it is mountainous and forested, especially in the western corners. It’s sure that this destination is perfect for any trekking journey through the rugged mountains and dense forest. The provincial capital is Sam Neua. Besides, get informed that the major rivers in this region are Song Ma (flowing from and into Vietnam, and passing Ban Muang-Et Village), and Nam San River (where Sam Neua provincial capital is located). Together with the fascinatingly intact nature, Houaphanh owns the highlight of the ethnic villages and friendly residents who become the big magnets to attract the foreign visitors worldwide. While some are keen on experiencing a new ethnic culture, costume or language, the others love interacting with the chummy villagers whose smiles are innocent and beautiful.
What to See in Houaphanh
The first and foremost landmark in Houaphanh must refer to the mystic Viengxay Caves. This is one of the world’s most magnificent underground constructions, with the capacity of 23,000 people. It covers a spacious network of caves employed by the Pathet Lao. The name of Viengxay means “the Hidden Cave City” where used to function as the shelter for 20,000 people lived during the Pathet Lao Liberation Movement (from 1964-1975). The extensive cave system includes the facilities of office, hospital, school, temple, market, and even recreational center. Of course, these facilities are simple and neat, just enough to support the local life during a hard time.
When you’re in Viengxay Caves, make sure you look for the historical attraction of Kaysone Phomvihane’s House in which the history of Viengxay was recorded. Also, the significant site of Kaysone Phomvihane’s Cave Office is the largest cave where to see a statue of Lenin and various great books. The extensive system can support your spiritual need with the little Stupa inside. And, you might want to explore the narrow Hospital Cave and the Xanglot Cave where witnessed the weddings and traditional festivals during the wartime. All in all, the exploration of Viengxay Caves gives you the new knowledge of how the previous generations of Laos people survived, worked, and fought in the so-called Caves. Surprises are ignited from cave to cave.
Hintang Archaeological Park
Houaphanh owns the dramatic scenery and archaeological values. The Hintang Archaeological Park attracts the travelers to cherish lots of prehistoric remnants and learn about the far history of Laos in this region. The archaeologists and like-minded people might value the short visit to this old site much. In this UNESCO World Heritage Site in Laos, you can confidently expect for the 2,000-year-old standing stones (called menhirs in the Laos language), and the antique megaliths. This is one of the most significant prehistoric sites in Laos that none wants to ignore during their travel to Houaphanh. The standing stone pillars are the symbolic masterpiece of the old time that appeals to the modern learners.
Wat Pho Xai (or Wat Pho Xaysanalam)
Nestled on the outskirt of Sam Neua provincial capital, the revered Wat Pho Xai is the notable religious venue for both the residents and newcomers to visit. The Wat lets you discover the exceptional spiritual life and belief of the local people. While its architecture is extraordinary, the spiritual value preserved in the temple needs respecting. The moments in Wat Pho Xai becomes peaceful and calming indeed.
Nameuang Hot Springs
Another must-see landmark in Houaphanh refers to the picturesque Nameuang Hot Springs. Situated in the valley of the lush rice fields, the hot springs offer the spectacular and refreshing views to feats every eye. This is the favorite picnic spot for the young locals and the backpackers. People admire the intact and captivating charm of the hot springs. While some are ready to jump into the transparent water, the other prefer sightseeing it, breathing the fresh air, and enjoying their lunch in the dramatic settings.
The provincial capital of Houaphanh, Sam Neua itself is a great attraction to explore. It is the untouched and remote town where preserves the original charm of the old Laos. Ethnic diversity and historical places of interest are the strengths of this area. While Houaphanh is the birthplace of Lao Communist Party, the Sam Neua town is the center to witness how the original ethnic Laos live and work. Ensure you don’t miss the beautiful textiles in this region! The tranquil town is the excellent stop for overnight rest.
How to Get to Houaphanh
The predominant terrains of caves, waterfalls, and mountains make it uneasy to drive to Houaphanh on your own. In common, people prefer the buses/coaches services from Vietnam to this eastern province of Laos. For entering the international border crossing, the foreign guests are required to have a valid passport! Besides, the access becomes easier if you are staying in one of the neighboring provinces like Luang Prabang or Xiangkhouang. Though the road conditions have been improved, they might not meet some travelers’ expectation, and it is quite a bumpy drive to reach this off-the-beaten-track site.
When to Visit Houaphanh
With the pristine bowl-like valleys and the misty mountains, this remote province of Laos stands out as one of the most spectacularly spectacular destinations for ecotourism. Whether you want to visit the diverse ethnic groups and their villagers or admire the intact, extensive forest coverage, it’s useful to keep in mind the following weather information. Then, decide when to pack and go to the historical, charming, and intact shelter!
- May – October: People say this is the best time to see Houaphanh because nature becomes extremely lush and green during the rainy season. The period from May to October showers the province with the pleasant temperature, cool wind, and some rain which might meet somebody’s expectation for a relaxing trip. However, as noted, the road condition in this remote area is not standard, and some corners might become impassable if the rain becomes heavy. Make sure you know what the rain might interfere your exploration, and get equipped with umbrellas to lessen the discomfort level if any. By the way, nature in Houaphanh presents their best look during these months.
- November – April: These months characterize the remote province with the dry and hot conditions. The two hottest months are March and April which costs you sweat to go outside and explore the local highlights. But, the dry time makes it ideal to discover the attraction of Viengxay Caves, and you find it trouble-free to check out every detail here. The ethnic villages also become easily accessible during the dry months while nature might turn to less flourishing if you compare it with the one in the rainy time.