Back to Study Trips

A Visit to the Plain of Jars: Luang Prabang and Vientiane

Laos is a thinly populated, mountainous country, roughly the size of 235,000 square kilometres, landlocked between Thailand, Burma, China, Vietnam and Cambodia. High hills plain of Jars plateaus and escarpments account for nearly two-thirds of the land area to form a rugged landscape, relieved in the north by the Plain of Jars, a wide area of grass-covered rolling hills, and in the south by the Bolovens Plateau. The mountains are densely forested for the most part, although Savana and sparse glade forests prevail in a few areas, particularly in the south. Cutting through the entire region as the country’s single most dominant topographical feature is the Mekong River, which runs along the nation’s western flank and, for much of the distance, forms the border with Thailand. Because most of the land area is taken up by highlands, the Mekong is the country’s economic lifeline. The river’s flood plains constitute the major wet-rice lands; its waters yield fish, the main source of protein, and its long passage has historically provided the most convenient north-south communication link. Most of the people have set close to the river or its tributaries. The capitals, Luang Prabang and Vientiane, and all other major cities and towns are located on the banks of the Mekong, while virtually every village depends on the vital bond between land and water.

The climate of Laos is highly seasonal, dictated by the annual monsoon cycle, which divides the year into clearly defined wet and dry periods. The division between upland and lowland is reflected not only in agricultural methods but also in the people themselves. The population as a whole is divided into three broad categories. Lao Loum, or Lao of the valleys, are ethnic Lao. Lao Theung lives mostly on the mountain slopes. The remainder is Lao Soung, Lao of the mountaintops.

According to the legend, the Lao originally sprang forth from three broken gourds and were first united by Khoun Borom, who had been sent down to earth by the King of Heaven to rule the celestial Kingdom. Legends abound, but although it is known that the Mekong river valley was inhabited in prehistoric times, the recorded history of Laos as a state begins only with the birth of Fa Ngum in 1316 and his subsequent founding of the Kingdom of a Million Elephants. Prior to that, small fiefdoms existed, while by the end of the 12th century lower Laos up as far as Vientiane had fallen under the sway of the Khmer Empire. Luang Prabang was the capital of Laos from 1353 to 1563. In 1563 the capital was transferred to Vientiane by King Setthathirath, who, amongst other achievements, constructed there Wat That Luang, the Great Reliquary which remains the one true masterpiece of Lao architecture.

Civil unrest ended in 1975 when the communist Pathat Lao finally took complete control of the country. The last monarch, King Savang Vatthana, was deposed by the new powers and sent to a re-education camp where it is now known that he died.

With its rich past and fascinating cultural heritage mostly still intact, Laos remains one of Asia’s Last tourism frontiers, a country with its own intriguing identity.

Plain of Jars

A large area extending around Phonsavan from the south-west to the north-east where huge jars of unknown origin are scattered about in the last a dozen groupings, Site 1 or Thung Hai Hin, 15 km southwest of Phonsavan and the largest of the various sites, features 250 jars which weigh mostly from 600 kg to one tonne each; the biggest of them weighs as much as six tonnes. Two other jar sites are readily accessible by road from Phonsavan. Site 2, about 25 km south of town, is known locally as Hai Hin Phu Salato and features about 90 jars spreading across two adjacent hillsides. More impressive is 150 Jars Site 3, also known as Hai Hin Laat Hhai. It is about 10 km further south of Site 2. Many smaller sites can also be seen in the Muang Kham district, but none of them contains more than 40 or 50 jars. The jars are commonly said to be about 2000 – 2500 years old.

Luang Prabang

  The first Lao Kingdom, Lan Xang, was consolidated here in 1353 by the Khmer-supported conqueror Fa Ngum. At that time, it was known as Muang Sawa. In 1357 the name was changed to Muang Xieng Thong, but sometime after King Fa Ngum accepted a Buddha image called Phra Bang as a gift from the Khmer monarchy, the city-state became known as Luang Prabang. But throughout the

Lan Xang period, Luang Prabang was considered the main source of monarchical power. In 1707 Lan Xang split into the separate Kingdom of Luang Prabang, Vientiane and Champasak.

Luang Prabang has become a tourist attraction because of its historic temples, or which around 32 of the original 66 built before the era of French colonisation are still standing and because of its delightful mountain-enriched setting, about 700 m above sea level at the confluence of Khan and Mekong rivers. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site and Laos’ most important tourist attraction.


  When Laos became a French protectorate in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Vientiane was named the capital city, and it has remained so under Communist rule today. Although Vientiane is the largest city in the country; it remains small enough that getting to know it is fairly easy. Parts of the town are really quite attractive, particularly the old section of the town along the Mekong River. There are many beautiful temples, an interesting morning market, and several French-Lao restaurants.

The Siam Society will arrange a 6-day study trip to explore many historical sites in the Plain of Jars, Luang Prabang and Vientiane in Lao PDR, under the leadership of Khun Euayporn Kerdchouay, Senior Consultant of the Siam Society.


Thursday, 2 to Tuesday, 7 March 2023


Khun Euayporn Kerdchouay, Senior Consultant of The Siam Society


See information below

Or contact Khun Thun


The tentative programme will be as follows:

Day 1: Thursday, 2 March: Bangkok – Vientiane – Xieng Khouang


Meet at Don Muang International Airport (Terminal 1), Air Asia check-in counter.


Depart Bangkok to Vientiane by Air Asia flight FD9042


Arrive at Vientiane Airport, pass through immigration control and check in for the domestic flight to Xieng Khouang


Depart Vientiane to Xieng Khouang by Lao Airlines flight QV401


Arrive at Xieng Khouang Airport. Proceed to visit the old capital city, Muang Khun, which was almost destroyed by US bombing, so the capital was moved to nearby Phonsavanh.


Check in at the hotel

Dinner and overnight at Vanasana Plain of Jars Hotel

Day 2: Friday, 3 March: Xieng Khoung – Plain of Jars 

Breakfast at the hotel.


Full-day visit to 3 sites in the Plain of Jars. Stone jars of different sizes, carved out of solid rocks, are scattered all over the plateau. The biggest has a height of 3.25 metres, estimated to be 2,500 to 3,000 years old


Lunch at a local restaurant


Dinner and overnight at Vanasana Plain of Jars Hotel

Day 3: Saturday, 4 March: Xieng Khoung – Luang Prabang

Breakfast at the hotel.


Check out and proceed to Luang Prabang by bus


Lunch at a local restaurant

Late afternoon:

Arrive at Luang Prabang


Dinner at a local restaurant

Overnight at Grand Luang Prabang Hotel or Souphattra Hotel

Day 4: Sunday, 5 March: Luang Prabang

Early morning:

(Optional) Participate in “Tak Bat” merit-making ceremony, then visit the morning market before coming back to the hotel.

Breakfast at the hotel


Visit the Royal Palace and the museum and visit some of the principal historical sites in Luang Prabang; Wat Xieng Thong, Wat Visoun, Wat Aham and Wat Pak Khan.


Lunch at a local restaurant


Embark on a boat ride upstream along the Mekong River, visit the mysterious Pak Ou Caves, two linked caves in which thousands of gold lacquered Buddha statues of various shapes and sizes are left by devoted pilgrims.


Free time in downtown Luang Prabang

Dinner at own arrangement

Overnight at Grand Luang Prabang Hotel or Souphattra Hotel

Day 5: Monday, 6 March: Luang Prabang – High-Speed Train to Vientiane

Breakfast at the hotel


Sightseeing in Luang Prabang


Lunch at a local restaurant and transfer to the train station


Depart Luang Prabang for Vientiane by high-speed train


Arrive in Vientiane, transfer to the hotel and check in at Eastin Hotel Vientiane

Dinner at a local restaurant and overnight at the hotel

Day 6: Tuesday, 7 March: Vientiane – Bangkok

Breakfast at the hotel


Sightseeing and visiting Wat Sisaket. The temple is famous for its cloister well which houses more than 6,800 Buddha icons of all sizes. Wat Prakeo, which once held the Emerald Buddha and now functions as a museum, Phra That Luang is the most important national monument in Laos, and the Patuxay Monument.

Transfer to Vientiane Airport


Depart Vientiane for Bangkok by Air Asia FD1041


Arrive at Bangkok Don Muang Airport

The Siam Society reserves the right to change the programme as necessary.


Contribution of THB 56,000 (THB 59,500 for non-members). Single room surcharge of THB 9,000. A photocopy of the identification page on your passport must accompany the booking. Your reservation will be confirmed as soon as the payment has been made. Please pay by cash or cheque payable to “The Siam Society”. Transfer can also be made to The Siam Society travel account at TMBThanachart Bank (ttb), saving account no. 053-2-18000-7 or by scanning the QR code on your right. Once payment has been made, please fax or e-mail the deposit or transfer docket to us.


  • The contribution includes accommodation (sharing basis), air tickets as mentioned in the programme, meals, transfer and sightseeing by cars, high-speed train, entrance fees, gratuities and other costs incurred to make this trip possible.


  • Visa fees (if any), personal expenses, personal food and beverage consumptions, etc.
  • Extra surcharge for aviation fuel and those related to air travel.

To comply with payment and cancellation policies set forth by tour agencies and to facilitate smooth working conditions between The Siam Society and the tour agencies, please read carefully the revised cancellation policies stated below:

Cancellation charges:

30 days before the start of the trip:

50% of the tour cost

Less than 30 days or cancellation without notice:

No refund

Covid-19 policy

Due to a lower number of worldwide infections, many countries have relaxed their travel restrictions and quarantine requirements in regards to Covid-19.

Nevertheless, when travelling as a group, The Siam Society would like to remind you of the following measures that we have put in place:

– We kindly ask that our trip participants perform a self-administered ATK test prior to the commencement of the trip. Participants are also asked to carry along with them multiple sets of ATK test kits, along with their preferred set of medicines (for consumption if infected with Covid-19).

– In the event that trip participants are tested positive during the trip, the group will continue to follow the planned itinerary. To ensure the health and safety of all trip participants, those who tested positive shall adhere to appropriate self-isolation measures as directed by the trip leader.

– Those tested positive with severe symptoms shall be treated in accordance with the health measures stipulated by the local government. Medical costs in excess of the insurance coverage shall be at the expense of the trip participant(s).

– The Siam Society will provide health insurance for all trip participants. Medical costs in excess of the insurance coverage shall be at the expense of the trip participant(s).

– Our staff and local tour operators will constantly provide you with the latest update on local health and safety regulations.

Tourist Visa Policy:

Thai passport holders are not required to apply for a visa to enter Lao PDR, as well as passport holders of other ASEAN member countries.

All foreigners who are not passport holders of ASEAN member countries are required to apply for an eVisa. This can be done via an online application, which is the most convenient option and can be completed from the comfort of your own home. You should receive a copy of your visa takes within three working days after the submission of your payment and application. The fee for an eVisa will vary between USD 30 – 50, depending on your nationality.

For more information, please follow the link:

For further information and bookings, please contact Khun Thun at 02-661-6470-3 ext 205 or The Society’s office is open from 09:00 to 17:00, Tuesday to Saturday.

More upcoming study trips