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Historic Souvannakhomkham

Legend and thin evidence tell the fascinating tale of Souvannakhomkham, the centre of an ancient kingdom stretching to Vietnam.

Once a Mekong island until the river changed course, Souvannakhomkham occupies 10,000 hectares of the Golden Triangle. Historians suggest people began migrating to the fertile valley in the 5th century, and various civilizations occupied the area over the years. Archeologists have unearthed ramparts from a city established by a group of northern Tai over 1,000 years ago, but the civilization fell into disarray.

Historians further believe Tai from present-day Chiang Saen, Thailand, moved into Souvannakhomkham in the 11th century after their city “disintegrated into swamp”. Souvannakhomkham also played a significant role during the Lanna Era, but by 1545, the Lane Xang (Lao) Kingdom took control of the trade hub, and archaeologists state most of the remains at the site date from this era.. 

According to legend, Lane Xang Viceroy Ayakoumarn journeyed to the Golden Triangle’s Kheun Island, and had a son, Souvanna, but the palace believed the prince brought bad luck, so they sent him downriver on a raft. To save him, Ayakoumarn ordered a khoumkham ceremony, in which people offered lit candles to Phaya Nak, the mythical Mekong serpent-god, who returned the raft to Kheun Island. To honor Phaya Nak, Ayakoumarn named the city “Souvannakhomkham”, and some believe this is the origin of October’s Boun Auk Phansaa Festival.


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