Warning: Xaysomboune, Xieng Khouang Province
Replies: 22 - Last Post: May 25, 2012 11:35 PM Last Post By: montyman
May 15, 2012 2:57 AM
Warning: Xaysomboune, Xieng Khouang ProvinceI’m writing to post a warning about traveling to /via Xaysomboune, Xieng Khouang Province in Laos.
I was stopped by the local police recently, most of them in plain clothes and drunk, and requested a special permit to stay there or continue forward to Phonsavan.
Later an officer who said he was their boss, at another location said there is no permit required to be there, just for tourists “safety” foreigners are required to stop there overnight.
Ultimately, I was arrested in Xaysomboune, and kept in detention for a week of hell at Xaysomboune and 2 other locations.
Don’t go there – there is plenty of police, they were all in plain clothes and were looking to make trouble. For the about 20 hrs I was there a Thai guy, whom I can’t tell from the Lao from his looks, was also arrested.
Ironically, Xaysomboune is called in the province's tourist brochure "the most secret place". Yes, it's and it's heavily guarded, IMO.
May 15, 2012 3:07 AM
May 15, 2012 4:35 AM
2I accidentally rode back there on a motorbike a few years ago and got stopped at a checkpoint by two intimidating cops who demanded passports with a "what the **** are you doing here" attitude. When I realised I was in the well known Xaysomboune restricted area (documented on many Laos maps) I turned around and high-tailed it outta there. You can probably get through but only with local guide and some paperwork.
May 15, 2012 7:22 AM
May 15, 2012 8:13 AM
May 15, 2012 8:48 AM
May 15, 2012 9:28 AM
May 15, 2012 9:44 AM
May 15, 2012 9:58 AM
9Thanks Herbie - I was just curious to know the location of the restricted area and why. I was just confirming that the road to Sam Neua is fine and the toporaphy is an absolute delight - I went on to Vieng Xai - the Pathet Lao HQ - totally fascinating and makes Laos a fraction easier to understand.
May 15, 2012 10:36 AM
May 15, 2012 1:58 PM
11look for Xaysomboune (Saisomboun, Saysomboun, & other spellings), midway between VTE & Phonsavan: http://ecotourismlaos.com/images/map/laos/laos_bg.jpg
this Special Zone was sealed off around 1994. even though it was technically dissolved & 'absorbed' into neighbouring provinces around 2006, most of it still remains a restricted area out of bounds to foreigners (& even Lao people from other regions). those who did their research before travelling would have known this fact. might want to Google for more on the Hmong resistance in Laos for why it is a restricted area. think only foreigners working in the gold mine project are allowed in (plus one guy who is building schools in the area), there are also hydroelectric projects (one of which has reportedly flooded out one road). can't find the trip report now but 2 guys who entered the area by accident a few years ago witnessed what appeared to be the forced relocation of a village before they themselves got thrown out. one thing i've noticed is that info on public transport between VTE & Saysomboun at VTE northern bus terminal has always been written only in Lao language & never translated into English like for other destinations.
one of the many old threads about this place on this forum: http://www.lonelyplanet.com/thorntree/thread.jspa?threadID=1470910
May 15, 2012 2:28 PM
12And to repeat:
There are NO police check points and the road is open for tourists wanting to go from Phonsavan to Houaphan Province (Xam Neua/Vieng Xai). The more northern route from LP to Houaphon (going through Vieng Kham) is also open and beautiful.
May 15, 2012 4:25 PM
May 15, 2012 8:11 PM
14In 2009, 2010 and 2011, I have been traveling in the area and slept in Muang Thathom, Xaisomboun and another village close to the Phu Bia Mining site. Everything was fine, people were nice. I can remember very beautiful landscapes, lot of Hmong people, some difficult roads, and 15 years old prostitutes who were working close to the mine. Sometimes there were checkpoints but more often in 2009 than in 2011. No problem to go through.
My advice is to travel in Saysomboun or southern districts close to the Vietnamese border only if you can speak lao and understand how things work here. Maybe I was just lucky not to have any trouble but I am confident that I can manage problems better than a backpacker.
Edited by: tictocchoc
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