Hua Phan Menhirs, Hintang, Houamuang, Xam NuaHua Phan Menhirs, Hintang, Houamuang, Xam Nua

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    Hard to find information about this spot. Almost only on the Explo Guide!
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      Very good description
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      Yes, many!
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Hua Phan is the main site of Hintang Archaeological Park. 150 menhirs stand on the top of a crest overlooking the jungle. Getting there is the occasion for a nice lonely walk in the mountains, away from all other tourists...

My experience, Explo description: 

This ancient necropolises is believed to pre-date those of the famous Plain of Jars. Instead of jars, this site comprises groups of menhirs or standing stones erected over large burial chambers covered by stone disks of up to 2m in diameter.

The standing stones have been dated to 1000-500 BCE and there are about 20 such sites in Houaphanh Province. Hintang Houamuang is the largest and most famous of these sites, with 3 main clusters erected along 10 kilometres of summit trails on the top of forested mountains, each cluster linked to the other by isolated groups of menhirs.

These sites around San Kong Phanh were surveyed and partly excavated in 1931 by French archaeologist Madeleine Colani. Although finding that the burial chambers contained little but alluvial clay which had been washed into the cavities, she suggested that each was originally occupied by several individual burials, separated by the sunken blades of the schist plaques. The few artefacts recovered by the Colani expedition - including rudimentary funerary urns, ceremonial stone objects, ceramic hanging pendants and bronze bracelets - are now on display in the Lao National Museum in Vientiane. No further excavation work has been undertaken in the area since that time.

Today it is believed that the people who created the menhirs were the ancestors of those who created the Plain of Jars ; there is some similarity in the grave offerings, and also a similarity between the stone discs that covered the entrances to the grave shafts and the carved lids of the jars.

It is believed that the transition from the rough upright standing stones to the carefully hewn jars came with the use of iron tools by about the 4th century BCE - the advent of iron forging in around the 4th century BCE offered new creative opportunities to the prehistoric necropolis builders.

But local legend explains the menhirs slightly differently...

"In ancient times Lao was inhabited by the Kha Yeui. Their chief, Ba Hat was a great giant possessing amazing powers, to whom the gods also gave three magical objects : a double-headed drum - one face struck to make enemies disappear and the other to call help from the gods ; an enormous awl which pierced the stoniest ground and made water gush out ; and an axe which could cut hard rock like wood.

Ba Hat fell himself no less strong than the Luang Prabang Kingdom, thanks to these marvelous instruments, so he decided the were no longer subjects of the king, who soon declared war. But the victory went to Ba Hat. Later believing the enemy king intended to return, Ba Hat called on the help of the gods. The chief of the gods descended in person and on seeing no enemies anywhere he flew into a rage and seized back the magical drum.

Ba Hat still had the other tools given him by the gods. With the magical axe, he set his people out to cut blocks of stone along Nam Peun, and bear them to the top of San Ang ridge to build the new city of Kong Phanh. This aroused the king of Luang Prabang’s fears and he decided a ruse to keep that city from ever beeing founded. He succeeded in marrying his son to Ba Hat’s daughter. Misplacing their confidence in the prince, the Kha Yuei were induced to lay the magical awl and axe onto a white-hot brazier. The two instruments immediately lost all magic power.

So the Kha Yuei had to abandon their project and they just left the stones where they had been raised along the crest. These later on became the menhir fields of San Kong Phanh and the neighbouring countryside."

(Article based on a text of the Department of Museums and Archaeology, Laos PDR Ministry of Information and Culture).

Close to the menhirs are the vestiges of an ancient Tourist information centre.

My personal recommendations: 

We advise you to go directly on the main site on the crest (Hua Phan), and not to go to the 2 other sites, which are smaller. The Go and Return walk trip from the Road (6) to the site is about 3 hours.

How getting there: 

The site is about 6km up a track (going South) which turns off road 6 (in a village, Ban Phao ?), about 57km out of Sam Neua on the way to Nam Noen. There are Hintang signboards (white stone pillars on red background) on the road, but the signs are not very obvious (except a big one in the village where you need to stop). An helpful traveller wrote the GPS coordinates on the web : N20 07.388 E103 53.737.

When you have stopped the bus at the village signboard, you are supposed to buy an admission ticket, but most of the time the ticket office is closed. Then take the track going South. Go up the crest. There, stay on the main track on the crest on the left(don’t follow the signs on the right to an other more little site). After 20mn walk, you will reach the site, close to a little hamlet.

The best solution, if the weather is not wet and if you know well how to drive a motorcycle is to rent one. The total trip will be very long (at least 4 hours on the road 6), ant the 6km track might be very moody... There is a little gas point at the village.

A tip to eat: 

No place to eat there. You can buy food in a little grocery shop at the village on road 6 (just before the ticket office).

A tip to sleep: 

No place to sleep there. If you do not have a car or a motorcycle, as there is also not a lot of traffic on the road 6, you might be obliged to overnight at people places and take a bus the day after early in the morning.

Useful information: 
Open hours: 

All day long...

Visit duration: 

From the village : 3 hours.

Entry fees: 

Normally not, but most of the time : free !

Access security: 

The place is not easy to access. Take some water.