Phou Khout

Phou Khout

Get off the beaten trail

More on Phonsavan

Found off of Route 7, Phou Khout (also Kood, Kout) is an interesting and remote side adventure 43 kilometres from Phonsavan. The district can be combined with Muang Soui (Nong Tang) for a long day trip from the city.

Travelfish says:

Phou Khout is a tantalising dot on the government’s tourism maps but there’s little information to be found, except when digging through the history of the Secret War. Phou Khout mountain and ridgeline overlooked Muang Soui valley, and both were battled over by the communist Pathet Lao, the People’s Army of Vietnam (PAVN), the neutralists, the Royal Lao Army and the covert American CIA-backed operation. If interested in its significance, read up on Operation Triangle (1964), Operation Off Balance (1969) and Kou Kiet/Operation About Face (1969).

Russian–supplied war detritus by the road. : Cindy Fan.
Russian–supplied war detritus by the road. Photo: Cindy Fan

For a traveller, Phou Khout feels like an off-the-beaten track frontier with a spectacular recently opened viewpoint, an abandoned army tank and more of those mysterious jars, a cluster that tourists rarely visit.

The turnoff is on Route 7, some 43 kilometres from Phonsavan, and about five kilometres shy of Nong Tang. There is a sign for “Phou Kood Memorial Park”. Turn and drive along good paved road. Along the way, if it hasn’t been moved, after one kilometre on the lefthand side is an abandoned wreck of PT-76 Russian tank, abandoned in 1964 and bombed in 1969. It’s rare to see a large war relic out in the open like this. The SAM missile in Attapeu comes to mind and even that’s been painted over. Hopefully someone won’t take this for scrap metal.

Do enjoy the views. : Cindy Fan.
Do enjoy the views. Photo: Cindy Fan

About 4.5 kilometres from Route 7 is a main junction where the road forks left to Mithouna Guesthouse and in the middle is a big placard “Welcome to Phou Kood Memorial Park, 7 km”. Take the right fork and follow this main road, which crosses a bridge. After 2.2 kilometres, you’ll pass a road on the righthand side—keep it in mind, we’ll get back to it. Just continue on until the paved road ends.

On the left should be a road (in 2018, it looked newly cut and was topped with gravel) that leads 3.5 kilometres up, up and up to the peak of Phou Khout. Be careful, the last part before the top is extremely steep. You’re almost there but not quite: secure the bike and hike 300 metres on the trail through the forest to reach the peak for a view, spectacular on a clear day.

A jar in a grove at Ban Song Hat. : Cindy Fan.
A jar in a grove at Ban Song Hat. Photo: Cindy Fan

To see jars without tourists crowds and if you can handle an unpaved road, head back down to the main road and backtrack to that spot mentioned earlier. Turn left and follow the dirt road for 11 kilometres to Ban Song Hak: on the way at the midpoint, there’s a village—turn right to continue on the road to Ban Song Hak. The jars are in a grove of trees on a gentle sloping hill immediately on the lefthand side after the village. There are MAG clearance markers in the ground at the grove.

If time allows once back on Route 7, it’s just five kilometres on to Nong Tang to see Nong Tang Lake, Tham Pha Buddha Cave and the remnants of CIA airstrip Lima Site-108.

Contact details for Phou Khout

Address: 43km from Phonsavan
Coordinates (for GPS): 103º2'35.6" E, 19º33'34.45" N
See position in Apple or Google Maps: Apple Maps | Google Maps

Reviewed by

Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.

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