Why You Should Visit The Plain of Jars!
A Plain of Jars? What could possibly be so interesting about looking at a pile of jars on a plain? Well… they are made of stone, they are big, and there are hundreds of them! “So what?” I hear you asking. Ok, here’s what’s undeniably interesting. No one really has any idea why they are there and what they were used for; hence, it is a mystery, and I love mysteries!
There are thousands of stone jars scattered across the central plain of the Xiangkhoang Plateau, in northern Laos. More than 90 jar sites have been identified within the province, each containing between one and 400 jars, and they are ancient! They Date back to the Iron Age (500 BC to AD 500). Not surprisingly, the Plain of Jars is considered one of the most important prehistoric sites in Southeast Asia.
For what purpose, and by whom the jars were created remains, to this day, a mystery. There are, of course, many theories surrounding these ancient jars. Some theories are backed up by partial evidence including Madeleine Colani’s research in the 1930’s which concluded that the jars were associated with burial practices. Local theories include the jars being used to brew rice wine and, my favourite… that they were the cups of giants.
The Plain of Jars was a little out of our way, and the journey to Phonsavan was fraught with danger (our bus driver was crazy), however, we were glad we got the chance to wander amongst these mysterious relics of ancient times. We only spent two nights/one day in Phonsavan, therefore we hired a scooter and hit the road with the intention of visiting all three sites which are open to the public.
Site one was a good place to start our exploration of the Plain of Jars, as it was here that we found the visitor information centre. The information centre is comprised of well-presented information about the jars and the investigation into their origination. Furthermore, the museum also houses deactivated bombs and other ordinance from when this area was heavily bombarded during the war. Interestingly, it is one of the most heavily contaminated areas in the world from unexploded cluster bombs!
Site two was my favourite. Much of site two is set amongst large trees and is very picturesque. Also has the biggest jars that we saw…. some of these jars are monolithic!
We didn’t get to site three therefore I cannot comment on it. We did try to, but got lost instead! The jars aside, the Xiangkhoang Plateau is strikingly beautiful in places and, as we roamed the countryside on look out for jars, we were captivated by the rolling hills, and lush green rice paddies. For us, the jars were well worth a visit!
Travel Notes (June 2106)
LAK – Laotian Kip written here as ₭
Plain of Jars
Site one – Ticket price ₭15000 (AUD $2.50) includes visitors centre. This site includes bomb craters, a cave and hundreds of jars spread over several areas. If you keep following the path you can do a loop back to the carpark. Large area – walking involved.
Site two – Ticket price ₭10000 (AUD $1.65). Once paid and through the entrance you follow a road until you see a dirt track going to your right and another to the left. The area on the right has jars and great views, the path on the left will take you to a forest area with many large jars.
At the entrance to site two there is a restaurant. Limited Laos food served there includes fried rice, noodles and soup. Cool drinks are available. The food was very good, we had:
Stir-fried noodles with pork ₭15000 (AUD $2.50)
Noodle soup with chicken ₭15000 (AUD $2.50)
Getting to Phonsavan – we caught a bus from Vang Vieng. It was a mini-van actually, and the driver was clearly nuts! Dwayne and I think we’re pretty brave, but the journey from Vang Vieng to Phonsavan can only be described as a death defying drive through the mountains. The trip was punctuated by our driver continually spitting out of the window, and his constant chatter on his cell phone. To say he drove erratically, one handed, only just missing on coming traffic, small children, dogs, chickens, pigs and buffalos, would be an understatement. He didn’t miss the cow! I had to keep my eyes closed for the entire 6 hour drive! Can’t say it was fun… I can say it was an experience! The price for this hair-raising adventure was ₭100000 each (AUD $16.50).
Scooter hire – ₭100000 (AUD $16.50). For our ₭100000 we were given a bike which had no horn, indicator lights or headlight. It also had a dreadful knock in the motor. We immediately took it back and had it swapped for a better one. This one wasn’t much better but at least the electronics were working. All the scooters on offer were cheap Chinese crap. It was the worst scooter we had ever hired at the greatest cost. This shop was on the main road on the corner down from the bus depot (town). I suggest you look elsewhere for a scooter.
Khemphonelor 1 Guesthouse
Cost – ₭60000 (AUD$10/night)
Pros – Fan (didn’t need A/C the nights were cool)
Cons – No upper sheet on the bed. Location too out of the way unless you hire a scooter.
Our verdict – you get what you pay for, don’t expect too much for $10.
For Phonsavan accommodation type, availability and price visit Booking.com!
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