Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Tolaphap Theater - Phonsavan, Xieng Khuang, Laos

Phonsavan is the tiny capital city of Xieng Khuong province, a place best known for it's prehistoric stone jars and for being the most heavily bombed region during the Vietnam (American) War. 40 years ago, what is now Phonsavan was little more than a few villages nestled atop a plateau known as the Plain of Jars. The American military fought the communist Pathet Lao over the Plain of Jars because it was viewed as a perfect base for launching bombing missions over North Vietnam and the Ho Chi Minh Trail. The US was eventually pushed back, but not before obliterating the province.

Two unexploded American bomb casings stand as decorative sentinels in front of the Tolaphap Theater. Throughout the city and province, bomb casings like this have been put to use in one way or another by the people of Xieng Khuong.

Front entrances to the Tolaphap

Originally, the capital of Xieng Khoung province was a town called Muong Khoum, which was completely leveled by the US. There may or may not have been a movie theater in Muong Khoum, but nobody I spoke to could remember. When Phonsavan was dedicated as the new capital in the late 1970's, it was soon thereafter given a gift of the Tolaphap Theater by the Lao Ministry of Culture.

The Tolaphap was this remote mountain region's lone theater from 1983 until it closed down in the early 1990's. It's now a banquet hall.

Many thanks to Dornkaew, my wonderful girlfriend and a native of Phonsavan, whose invaluable help and patience made my research in Laos possible.


  1. Love it. And miss the green in Xiengkhouang, especially this cold season

  2. Muang Khoun, bor man Muang Khoum :) Just saw it though

  3. Yes, it's Muang Khoun. I've been there. So neat to see this theater included!

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