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The 'plain of jars' is one of the must sees in Asia - similar to Stonehenge and the figures on the Easter Island nobody knows the origins of these small to big stone jars.
They are located close to Phonsavan in the north-east of Laos close to the vietnamese border. Phonsavan is easily accessible from all major cities. You can go by local bus or by minibus - Local bus from Luang Prabang was 50000kip and the minibus was 85000kip.
There are 3 jar-sites whereby Site was is the most easily reachable. You have 3 ways to visit the sites:
- by tour: every GH will offer you tours. Expect to pay 80000 for Site 1 and 150000 for all 3 Sites. I found that the tour was overly rushed and you didn't have enough time to see this impressive place.
- go with a TukTuk: Find a TukTuk driver to take you. It will be a lot cheaper than with the tour and you can enjoy your day in your own time.
- hire a Motorbike: Motorbikes are 100000kip per day. Site 1 is easy to reach over a normal road. Both Site 2 and 3 need a ride over a dirt track - only do this if you are confident driving on a dirt track!
Entrance fee is to each site 10000 kip (if you go by bike there's also a 5000kip parking fee)
Have a look here for Info and Photos: http://plainofjars.net/
The plain of jars are basically jars...On a plain! Really (REALLY) big stone jars that you can climb in, scattered on a plain. That in itself makes them amazing.
But the mystery lies in there origin. That is, no one has any idea why people built them over a thousand years ago and to what purpose. Archaeologists have been no closer to providing the answer after decades of excavating and study.
Some theories have been thrown up; Some say they were for storing the ashes of the cremated dead and acted as giant urns. Others say they were just for storing water (a boring unimaginative theory) whilst the locals think they were just used for stashing large amounts of rice whisky and wine and don't really seem to see what all the fuss is about!
Phonsavan, the provincial capital and closest settlement to the jar sites sucks, but the surrounding landscape is so totally unlike the rest of Lao. Yellow grass plains with hills in the background, at times it felt more like the national park near my home in England than South-East Asia! Except for the huge bomb craters that dot the landscape left over from America's bombing rampage during the Indo-China war, and all the war junk used as flower vases scattered across Phonsavan's few resturants, a constant reminder that this region in Lao was one of the most heavily bombed regions, in the most heavily bombed country in the world...ever. More bombs were dropped on Lao than in both World war one and world war two combined...And considering Lao only has a population of just over 6 million, that's well over a tonne of explosives per person. And consider further that over a third of these bombs (mainly cluster bombs) didn't detonate on impact, this gives you some idea of how all the unexploded ordanance scattered around the country is causing dozens of fatalities and serious injuries every year by farmers and kids stepping on or playing with these bombs. It's a huge huge problem. Villagers being subsistence farmers cannot expand there plots of land in fear of being blown to pieces by UXO. So this keeps hundreds of thousands of people in poverty.