Published: May 3rd 2007May 3rd 2007
Luang Prabang - Phonsavan
Jason & Kirstyn O
Spent one more night in Luang Prabang before heading south east to Phonsavan. The bus ride was an easy eight hours on a rickety old bus, but luckily not too many people aboard so we were able to stretch our legs. It was a very windy road on the way there through the mountains passing lots of hilltribe villages on the way. A lovely trip!
From Phonsavan we based ourselves for a few days to explore the Plane of Jars. Booked a tour with a man who was extremely passionate about the area and spoke excellent english, so was very very informative.
No one really knows for sure how old (thought to be 2000 BC) or why the plane of jars exists, but the most believable story so far is that they were used as offering jars in funeral ceremonies. To this day however the Laos people have not had the money, forensic expertise or the equipment to be able to excavate and accurately date soils etc. Added to this is the fact there are still thousands of UXO (unexploded ordinances) everywhere so the sites must be cleared first before any Archeologist
Trip to Phonsavan
note the strong safety railing
goes digging! The local folklore story however is much better: they are cups used by giants to drink Lao Lao Whisky (whisky made from sticky rice). Some of them are broken because as the giants got drunk they broke some of the jars.
Unfortunately many of the jars are broken due to the amount of bombing that took place in the province from 1960 to 1970 when America carpet bombed Laos to prevent the forming of a communist government and to stop the movement of supplies by the North Vietnamese along the Ho Chi Minh trail. Thailand also attacked and occupied Laos at this time (in Laos they call them the American puppets) and the Viet Cong aided the Lao Pathet Communist movement. All in all their was a lot of lives lost and a lot of bombs dropped. The province around Phonsavan is one of the most heavily bombed in Laos and most of the area is still yet to be cleared. As you can see in some of the photos there are bomb craters all over the hills and live UXOs litter the ground. The areas close to villages and low lying farming areas have been cleared
Plain of Bomb Craters!
The hills surrounding Phonsovan are scarred with huge bomb craters. One of the most heavily bombed places in the world
but even then some have only been cleared with cheap metal detectors which only go to about 30cm depth. Recently there has been some funding made available from other countries to clear more land accurately, but still a lot to go!
Our guide and his father were recently granted permission from the government to open the area to tourists. This was assisted with funding from Ausaid and NZaid to clear more of the area of UXOs. They would really like to have the area listed as a world heritage site, but it will be a long time, and a lot of money later before this happens. While the jars themselves and the mystery that surrounds them was very interesting, we also really enjoyed the many stories our guide told. At the end of our tour he took us to a local village where we met one of the families there and drank Lao Lao Whisky (it would have been impolite not to) and sang songs (not that we knew any words!). Our driver even had quite a few whiskys but we managed to make it back to Phonsavan safely in the dark.
There are more photos below