Published: June 26th 2012February 1st 2012
Local morning market
Today was another early start. Again our guide was also our driver. We headed off after a wander around the morning markets. First planned stop was a large bomb crater somewhere out in the countryside. Unfortunately they were doing road works and there was no way our little van was going to get through.
Second item on the agenda were the Tham Xang Caves. After waiting around in the local village for a little while the head of the village confirmed to our guide that the gate was locked and the key was lost. We had a great time anyway walking around the village. The residents were very friendly and didn't seem to mind us having a look around...even encouraging us to take photos.
We headed off again..this time heading for the Hmong Village our guide had grown up in. The residents here were very friendly also and happy to show us around. The boys were very interested in the local blacksmiths shop. It was very hot, labour intensive and definitely not work for the lazy or faint-hearted. The metal being used was scrounged from the unexploded ordanace that was everywhere in this part of Laos. Many of the
houses were on stilts made from large bomb casings.
We met the local shaman who invited us in for Lao Lao and peanuts. The lady spoke no English or German for that matter and our guide acted as the interpreter. It showed me how far removed the lives of the local people were from our own. Everybody in the village from young children to the elderly were very busy with getting everything prepared for the rainy season. The women in particular seemed to have much do but everyone pitched in and it was all very social.
After the Hmong village we headed off to visit Tham Piu cave where it is alleged at least 374 people were killed by US bombs. It was another reminder of the secret war that had occurred in Laos. A large memorial has been built to the people who died, all who were buried in the surrounding area. There is also a small museum at the bottom of the hill from the cave full of gruesome pictures and examples of bombs etc found around in the local area.
After this rather sobering adventure we headed off to have lunch at
a local restaurant. After lunch our guide decided to see if it was possible to go to the bomb crater site. This time we made it through even though the road works were still underway. Unlike here in Australia they don't have stop and go signs to allow traffic through. It didn't seem like any allowance was made to let traffic through at all.
There was no mistaking the bomb crater site. The area was large and the bomb craters were large. MAG have cleared portions of the site and our guide made sure we stayed within the MAG markers. It is not an infalliable system though. The cluster bomb I photographed was within the safe zone and had been marked simply with a rock. There are many rocks in the area!!!
Our final stop for the day was Jar Site no 1. The biggest of the three jar sites. From the top of the hill the jars stretched for quite a long way. This site was definitely much bigger then the previous two we had visited. On the walk to the jars we stopped at a small cave that archeologists believe was used as a crematorium. Further evidence that the jars or at least some of them were used for burial.
Like the other two jar sites evidence of the war was apparent everywhere. This area had been a major strategic point in the civil war that had occurred in Laos. Just as we were reaching the end of the walk around the jars it started to bucket down rian and we had to run for cover at a small souvenir shop in the car park.
Our second day of touring was as wonderful expierence as the first and we would be sad to leave Phonsavan. next day we were off to Luang Prabang by mini bus. The rain continued into the evening and we had dinner at a small local restaurant right on the corner with the hotel. It was another great meal of local soup....just perfect for a rainy night.