Old Xieng Khuang
What we say:
Muang Khoun is the old Xieng Khuang and was once the provincial capital. The ruins of a temple are all that remain of what was once a royal kingdom, renowned for the beauty of its many temples and stupas.
They have all been destroyed by years of pillaging by raiders from invading countries, followed by the intense bombing of the war. There is no longer any evidence in Muang Khoun of the architectural style that made the kingdom so famous.
That Foun is the first monument that most people will visit when they arrive in Muang Khoun â€“ it's located on the left in the middle of town and a sign points the direction to head. Up on the hill, That Foun is an old brick stupa built in 1576 which is seemingly cracked down the middle and has a tunnel through it created by Chinese robbers. It's an impressive 30-metre-tall structure which is completely different from the golden stupas that you see throughout Laos and Thailand. Further up the dirt path from That Foun is That Chom Phet which is overgrown and a bit busted. Go up, grab a photo and move on. Entry to the site is 10,000 kip.
The enormous seated Buddha at Wat Piawat has a bullet shot through its forehead and sits at the end of a row of towering brick pillars. It's worth swinging by when in town. It's located a couple of kilometres along the main road from That Foun in the opposite direction of Phonsavan. Entry is 10,000 kip.
Muang Khoun doesn't have much in the way of accommodation and the only restaurants are basic, mostly serving noodle soup.
Best visited as a day trip from Phonsavan, it can be attached to a visit to the nearby Jars for an extra fee. There are songtheaws which will take you to Muang Khoun leaving from Phonsavan but the departure times are unreliable and leaving only when there are enough passengers. Buses from Phonsavan swing through here in the early morning enroute to Paksan, but given that accommodation options in town are almost non-existent, you run the real risk of having to charter a songthaew back into Phonsavan should your search for a room fail. The best bet is to hire a motorbike to visit Muang Khoun.
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