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Xieng Khouang has the dubious distinction of being one of the most heavily bombed provinces in the most heavily bombed country on earth. For centuries, it has been at the crossroads of war, culminating in the U.S.'s "secret war" against the Pathet Lao and North Vietnamese Army. The former capital city of Muang Khouang was so thoroughly destroyed by American bombing raids that the capital was moved in 1975 to Phonsavan, itself heavily damaged. However, the people do not seem to harbor any ill will and have taken the tragedy of the war years in stride, incorporating the remnants of war into their daily lives. Halved bombshells serve as pig troughs, ammunition cases function as lunchboxes, metal tracks airlifted for makeshift runways are converted to convenient driveways, and there is even a village dedicated to and decorated by found shrapnel and bomb material. Today, Xieng Khouang is gaining recognition as home to the Plain of Jars, a little-understood group of archaeological sites of enormous stone jars, or drums, buried in the earth. Phonsavan, which has virtually no buildings remaining from the pre-war years, is merely a base from which to explore the area and not much else. The jars themselves are a fun and interesting mystery. A visit to this region is certainly educational: You'll learn about the Hmong rebels, the mysterious recent history, and the many demining projects. Spring for a good guide to take you around to the many sites. Note: Higher altitude and weather patterns mean that it can get chilly here, especially in the rainy season, so bring a few layers.

WARNING Beware of Unexploded Ordnance -- Xieng Khouang province is one of the most heavily bombed areas on earth. UXO, or unexploded ordnance, is numerous, particularly in the form of small cluster bombs, blue or gray metal balls about the size of a fist. Don't stray into uninhabited, unexplored areas without a good guide, and don't touch anything on the ground. The jar sites are safe.