Photo: A misty morning.


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Bordering Vietnam in northeastern Laos, Hua Phan province was the military headquarters of the communist Pathet Lao during the revolutionary fight for independence. As the heart of the resistance, this distant corner played a defining role in the country’s modern history. Welcome to the birthplace of the Lao PDR.

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Hua Phan (also Houaphanh) could also hold the title as Laos’ most remote province. Mountainous and often shrouded in fog, Hua Phan’s isolation and ethnic diversity has given it characteristics unique for Laos. The rest of the country laughs at the local dialect and different vocabulary. For a traveller who has already spent some time in Laos, just when you thought you’ve mastered “kawp chai” (thank you), here it’s “kawp cheuh”. The favourite Lao phrase “pai sai” (where are you going) is “pai geu leuh”.

The town itself may not be attractive, but the setting it. Photo taken in or around Sam Neua, Laos by Cindy Fan.

The town itself may not be attractive, but the setting it. Photo: Cindy Fan

The majority of travellers only find themselves here because they are transiting to/from Thanh Hoa, Vietnam, which is a shame as this province is worth visiting even if not headed to Vietnam. The capital Sam Neua (also Xam Neua), 80 kilometres from the Namsoi-Nameo border crossing, is a cluster of soulless post-war concrete buildings in a picturesque valley surrounded by rolling mountains. The town itself isn’t pretty and has a slightly gritty frontier feel but it redeems itself as a low-key place to spend a couple of nights, with adequate budget accommodation and enough to see and do in the surrounds to make the journey worthwhile for a curious ... Travelfish members only (Around 1,700 more words) ... please log in to read the rest of this story.

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