Phonsavanh - UXOs on the POJ

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August 12th 2010
Published: March 10th 2011
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Thursday, 12th August
Now then. Bus journeys. Usually uneventful and usually no-one gives a sh*t so I just gloss over them. Today's was testament to the absolute ineptitude of the South East Asian transport system so far it would be a complete injustice to every other transportation system in the Universe (including the cross Saturn X34 route) to not document it.

It started early (as always), 20 minutes before scheduled. No I will not get on the bus in just a towel Mr. Busman. Waiting on the bus for us to show up was an Israeli girl with no ticket and was bullied onto this minibus in the greatest miscommunication since sitcoms were banned from mocking deaf people. She had a ticket for a real bus in 45 minutes, and the bus station is not close by. Oh, and the list of pick ups the driver has is longer than his pantleg. He managed to communicate his discontent at the lack of room numbers on it too. At the third hotel where he had frantically run around trying to force unsuspecting tourists onto his bus we had effectively gone 25m in 45 minutes. At this pace we would arrive in Phonsavanh at...about...the London Olympics closing ceremony.

When he did manage to get some passengers he filled up the little MPV 20% past its capacity. The Israeli had literaly jumped out of the window by then. We had to swap vans for more space, and were still squashed.

And so on to the real adventure of the journey. Since leaving we were 2 hours late it's only natural that where the highway code is more commonly used as toilet paper the new driver would zip along at 30mph above the speed limit. What better roads than these windy b*ggers for that kind of recklessness? Villages built on corners and overtaking a form of competitiveness?

Dog. SPLAT. Blood and guts everywhere, the yelp would haunt me for at least 2 days. And I hate the stupid bloody things. It did NOT die instantly. My only solace is that in this part of the World at least its pieces wouldn't go to waste.

Did the driver learn his lesson? No he f**king didn't. An absence of dogs meant chickens or goats ran out instead. Life must just be that bad for animals over here. We actually just missed a baby! A baby!!!!!!!!! Crawled out onto the road. Even worse, a herd of cows crossed the road as we reached Phonsavanh. And humped. Right there. No overtaking d*ckheads. That would have been more than entrails on the road.

And so onto Phonsavanh. Built solely for its heritage site and doesn't really feel like it's finished. The one dirt road punctuated by workers who don't really do work and should just be called ers and sit in the shade of several empty guesthouses. We won't be here long.

Friday, 13th August
Testament to the value of bargaining in Asia - we were quoted a price for a room which the guesthouse didn't even have left. They showed us a much better room. Higher price of course. By 'um'ing and 'ah'ing and finally picking up our bags to leave they dropped the price below the price for the sh*t room. If they tried to trick us that backfired. If they didn't, well, one less mouth gets fed tonight.

We booked straight onto a tour of the Plain of Jars sites. Just a small group of 4 meant the personal touch. Poor English removed it. The excursion went via a brief but illuminating stop at the tourist office. I didn't know but the US bombed here in 1962 in a war against the Geneva conventions. Nothing changes apparently. It was the single biggest bombing campaign per person (aimed at). Nearly 2 tonnes per person. Did they even need to aim?

2 tonnes seems less significant when you see a sign at one of the Jars sites which warns you to watch out for unexplained ordnance. That's f**king bombs to you or I. Does my insurance cover the cost of an additional piece of luggage necessary to fly my leg home? Sh*t. Apparently America donates £5m p.a. to find more bombs. It spends ten times that looking for downed planes with soldier skeletons. Get your priorities right. At least we know that they are self-important enough to clear the tourist sites before the places local children might play in.

Stay inside the white bricks if you want to live.

The Plain of Jars is a field of jars. Yes, really. Varying in size and shape - some as tall as both of us - there has been no conclusion as to what they are for. They are the Maxi Rodriguez of tourism. Popular theories include "to put stuff in". There are literally loads of them. The view all around is spectacular which adds to the fact that you are looking at aged concrete. Craters surround the jars as deep as the Simpsons swimming pool (when they had one) but over 40 years have become overgrown or turned into a pond. In our destraction a bug managed to get down Hayley's top. Panic on the streets of Phonsavanh. At sight one there was also a huge cave that the commies hid in. Nothing changes apparently.

The imaginatively named site 2 was better than the first set in between a forested clearing. The flies were on us like flies*t. They've never been picky those flies. It started to p*ss Hayley off that I took more photos of bugs than jars but she should know that makes me do it more.

In order to fill up the day those generous tour folks threw in some extras. Firstly we stopped off at the Whisky village which would only have been appropriately named more if it had been named Whisky Old Lady who watches rice ferment. Holy shizzle was it strong. And her teeth had fallen out. Don't drink the profits old lady. From our dice with death (flavour) to a Russian tank. Just like a BMW in a Liverpool council estate it had been stripped. Russian non-descript metal box it should have been called. And that's overstating it. Having said that I might be just a box if I got left since 1968.

At site 3 it was all about the picturesque views. A walk through the rice fields with the rolling Laotian hills in the background was as stunning a view as we've seen since Bariloche.

Did you know pineapples didn't grow on trees? I didn't. I think I may be slow. Why the fr*g do they have pine in their name?

We had dinner with Pete and Becky, a couple on our slow boat who we'd met up with in Luang Prabang. For about 50p we were served one of those rolling hills made of sweet and sour chicken. I forgot my hiking boots.

Additional photos below
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Whiskey villageWhiskey village
Whiskey village

and the toothless old lady

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