Mystery of the Plain of Jars

We had debates on whether we should go to Phonsavan where the Plain of Jars was located. Mum didn’t want to go as it was 7 hours East of Vang Vieng – off the trail – and another 7h on to Luang Prabang on extremely winding roads. In the end with TUT’s pestering we decided to go. The windy roads seemed to go on forever and ever and it felt as if we were driving to the heavens and back down again. I was preoccupied reading with music blasting in my ears even though I knew it would make me feel sick – fortunately it didn’t and everyone made the first part with no vomit bags! The scenery was spectacular though.

The town seemed like it was from an old cowboy film. It was dusty and the roads were wide. We stayed in a simple hotel for only 80,000 kip (£7) a night, we stayed 3 nights in total.

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In town - Travellingminstrel

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Spiderboy - Travellingminstrel
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Market - Travellingminstrel

Outside of town you could see people working in the fields – but not picking rice, they were searching for leftover bombs. Laos is the most bombed country in the world and particularly this area so there are many cluster bombs still around the country. How did this happen? Go here for more information – http://legaciesofwar.org/about-laos/secret

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Cluster bombs - Travellingminstrel

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Travellingminstrel

The first day we rented 2 scooters (cheap Chinese ones) and headed off in search of the Jars. It took us a long time and lots of wrong turns as there were no signs until it was right before your eyes.

The Plain of Jars are a megalithic archaeological landscape in Laos dating back to the Iron age. Or so they say, for all we know they could be a lot older, no one really knows. It’s one of the most important prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia. They are scattered over the countryside sometimes on their own and sometimes in groups of several hundred. Again, no one actually really knows what they are or where they came from. Some people think it’s for a burial site, locals think they were used as cups for drinking rice wine in by a race of giants, or to store water in for the dry season, other locals think they were to celebrate a great military victory 1,500 years ago. Any ideas let me know please.

Whatever it is it’s all very perplexing.

We went to sight 1 one which was the most touristy one and had a cave inside the site that was to do with the Jars. These were over a larger area and more clumped together than the next two but still impressive.

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Travellingminstrel

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Jars - Travellingminstrel
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Travellingminstrel

We set off to find site 2 and 3 which were apparently 30 kms down the road or so the man at the guesthouse told mum. So we drove for 30 kms and guess what? No sites! We found a French woman who was cycling around Laos alone and she told me we had come the wrong way and needed to go back 30kms and down another road! Brilliant. Anyway we had pizza from a street stall which took forever to make and set off again!

Jed was fed up by that time so mum took him home but me and TUT carried on down a road towards where we thought site 2 and 3 were. Luckily we were right.

We went to site 3 first. These seemed smaller jars but older because they were rougher on the edges. It was set among paddy fields on a small hill hidden between trees.

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Site 3 - Travellingminstrel

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TUT - Travellingminstrel
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Site 2, not too far from site 3 was quieter and seemed more off track. It was higher up and gave you beautiful views across the country side. These were taller and spread out more, we both meditated among a group of Jars under the canopy of trees and soon it became alive once more as our presence was no longer disturbing.

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Part of site 2 - Travellingminstrel

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View - Travellingminstrel
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Mines advisory group - Travellingminstrel
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Jar - Travellingminstrel
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The birds started calling, the leaves started humming amongst themselves and at one point the sun broke through the canopy and shone on our faces forcing our eyes to open.

What do you think the Jars were used for?

We spent the next day visiting the UXOLAO organisation (unexploded ordnance programme) and watched a video about the work they do and help they provide for victims of UXO. See http://www.uxolao.org
We bought a few gifts made by the wives of many of the victims and then went on to the MAG (Mines Advisory Group) shop to find out more about the work they do here and in other affected countries, http://www.maginternational.org

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Bomb - Travellingminstrel
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MAG - Travellingminstrel
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