Ban Phakeo Trek
Take a short side-step on your Xieng Khouang tour at Ban Ta Jok, just 30 km from Phonsavanh, and embark on a 2-day trek to some of the province’s best hidden treasures. The journey centres on Ban Phakeo (Hmong), and reaches a concealed jar site, waterfall, and architecture employing war scrap.
Meet your local guide and visit the market to purchase food and supplies. Then, you’re off on an easy-to-moderate five-hour hike along an age-old trail and across several streams to the Ban Phakeo Jar Site. Four groups of some 400 jars, some sprouting orchids, greet you in a forest thick with undergrowth, adding to the ancient atmosphere. Rare jar lids – stone discs with animal carvings – also dot the site.
Arrive in Ban Phakeo in time to watch the mountain-dwelling Hmong prepare a dinner that could include duck soup with rice or chicken. Female visitors may want to join the local women after dinner as they do laundry and discuss local news. You’ll spend the night on simple bedding in the village lodge.
The second day’s adventure begins with a 4-hour trek to Thad Kha Waterfall, which cascades over rock clusters in a misty downpour. You can take a jungle trail that traverses the falls to the top, swim in one of Thad Kah’s pools, or sit in a giant tree hanging over the falls. The trail returns to Ban Ta Jok, just a short walk from the falls, where you can inspect how the Hmong villagers use bomb shells as vegetable planters, house and barn pillars, and fence posts.
To book this trek, contact the Visitor Information Centre in Phonsavanh or a local tour operator.
The Southern Jar Trek
Head off on a series of short treks on this 1-day tour to jar sites and quarry, a waterfall cave, bomb craters, mountain views, and a visit to “Spoon Village”. Start at Ban Na-0, a Tai Phuan and Khmu village near Phonsavanh, and the head of a 500-metre trail to Jar Site 1. Foxholes, bomb craters, and a Pathet Lao cave along the way testify to a time when the site served as a battlefield. The path ends at 300-plus prehistoric jars scattered in a 25-hectare field.
Next comes Jar Sites 2 and 3 at the base of a forested mountain. Short, easy treks lead to both, with a waterfall thrown into mix. A 500-metre path climbs past bomb craters to a pair of shady knolls displaying 93 jars at Jar Site 2. The western hill holds a carved stone disk. Continue to the Ban Nakang Visitor Centre, and a 700-metre trail along the Nam Xan River through piles of boulders and a misty descent to the Tad Lang Waterfall.
Access to Jar Site 3 with a path at Ban Nakho, which passes the village’s small Buddhist temple on the way to a pleasant walk to the hilltop site’s 150-some jars and scenic views of the rice paddies and the plain below. End the day’s tour at Ban Napia, where Tai Phuan villagers forge spoons from war scrap. Watch as they melt material in a ladle placed in a wood-fired rock oven, pour the molten metal into a wooden mould, and pop out a spoon.