The Stone Henge Of Laos

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November 6th 2011
Published: August 9th 2017
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Geo: 19.4811, 103.13

Phonsovans Plain of Jars may not be as well known as Stone Henge, but the same mystery applies. It's not really understood how they got there and what the were used for. We got to Phonsavan from Don Det at the very bottom of Laos.
The whole trip took 32 hours by catching a longtail boat to the mainland, mini van to Pakse, waiting in Pakse for 6 hours, an overnight bus with minimal sleep to Vientiane, transfer from the southern bus terminal to the northern terminal and then straight away catching a 10 hour local bus on bumpy, dusty, noisy and windy roads. It was very tiring!, although looking back it wasn't really worth the detour.

Phonsavan wasn't really a nice town in terms of attractiveness and friendliness with more of a police presence, but there are quite a few things to see around the area. After a much needed nights sleep we got some breakfast and luch and hired a motorcycle for about $10 and set off for the Plain of Jars. The area around Phonsavan is mostly farmed as the mountains turn to small hills and where the three different sites of the jars are scattered by several kilometers of dirt roads, so hiring a bike is the best and cheapest way to see them.
The road was fine for the first site and it was quite odd to see random jars scattered around. We continued a few kilometers down the road and then a further 11km to site two on a very uneven and bumpy dirt road. It took quite a while to navigate the dirt road but we eventually got to site two which was more hidden amongst trees and where the tree roots have wrapped around some of the jars.

The third site was a further 5km down the dirt road and probably the best as you walk through rice fields and uphill a little bit, from there the views are really nice and where the jars are also amongst trees. So the Plain of Jars were nice but not sensational and mostly pretty small so visits were short.
There are also a few other sites nearby such as a tank, a village with some spoon thing and a waterfall, yes another one! We drove to try and see the village with the spoon, I think made from war scraps, but the road was closed off so we headed back to Phonsavan and booked our mini van to Luang Prabang. We spent the night thinking about the $1 buffet dinners and $1 sandwiches waiting for us in Luang Prabang.
We arrived in Luang Prabang late arfternoon and checked in to our accommodation that we stayed in the last time, although the price had been increased but we got it cheaper having known what we paid last time.

We checked some emails and then set off for the buffet feast. The one thing that was clearly apparent from being here two weeks previous was the increase of tourists by quite a lot. The fancy restaurants which had maybe a few people in them were almost full and the buffet laneway was sprawling, probably as it get more in to peak season and the end of the rainy season. This also means the prices increase like our accommodation and sandwiches up an extra 5,000 kip, not fair! We strolled through the night market again where Anna bought a gorgeous dress.

Our aim was to head to the very north of Laos to the less touristy village of Phongsali but after calculating the cost and the time spent in buses and backtracking we unfortunately decided that it was better to enter Vietnam earlier. The following day we caught a small longtail boat up the Nam Ou river for 7 hours to Nong Khiaw, a much smaller and quieter place surrounded by amazing jungle clad mountains with only one road. We got a simple hut with a river view. We only had a certain amount of kip left over and seeing as we were entering Vietnam a few days later we were cutting it fine because there wern't going to be anymore ATM's, but we were going to be short anyway and had to exchange some money, just enough to get us to the border.

If we had enough we probably would have stayed an extra day or so but instead we continued up the river to Muang Khoa, this time starting off in a crammed longtail boat for the first hour until virtually everyone but us and two Korean girls got off for Muang Ngoi Neua, another small place along the river only accessible via boat.
5 hours later and we arrived in the small village of Muang Khoa with just a few guesthouses. This is where you can catch a bus to the border of Vietnam and continue to the nearest town of Dien Bien Phu.
We didn't have much information about the bus and when it left, we were told different things compared to the lonely planet and a Spanish girl told us we had to be at the river to cross for the bus at 4am and the bus was to leave at 5am. So we woke at the horrible hour of 3.30am and headed to the river and waited, and waited and waited, not alone though, a few more people and the Koreans were also heading our way. Finally after two hours of waiting in the dark, a small boat took us 15 meters across the river to the awaiting bus to the border which left at 6.30. Annoying as it was we could have slept an extra 1.5hrs if we had proper information.

For the first time in a long time it rained a little bit as we drove the dirt road for about 3 hours to the border, having to stop at one occasion as the bus couldn't make it up a steep muddy hill, so an excavator had to flatten the road a little and after an extensive run up and third attempt we made it, but confused as to why they didn't just get the 15 odd passengers to hop out briefly, reducing the weight.

Thus marks the end of our three weeks in Laos and it was a great country and greatly exceeded my expectations. Maybe a little more expensive than first thought but the range of landscapes and experiences are vast.

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