The Plain Of Jars,
Laos, Vientiane and Central Regions
Info : The Plain Of Jars
The Plain of Jars, located approx 6 hrs by road from Luang Prabang or a 30 minute flight from Vientiane, is one of the great mysteries of Asia. The area is surrounded by spectacular mountainous scenery with many small ethnic minority villages along the route from Luang Prabang. Phonsavan, the capital of the region acts as a tourism hub for the area and includes a fine collection of archaeological riches, including the mysterious Plain of Jars.
The province is one of the northern regions of Lao most heavily affected by the Secret war. Virtually every town and village was bombed at one time or another between 1964 and 1973, leaving behind a devastating toll on the local terrain and farmlands. The area is pockmarked with bomb craters in which little or no vegetation grows. Located 130kms from the Vietnamese border, the area has also been home to conflicts with neighbors. By 1964 the North Vietnamese and Pathet Lao had established vast tunnels under the Plain of Jars, as part of the Ho Chi Minh trail. This battlefield served to deliver daily bombing by American planes, and ground battles between the Pathet Lao and US-trained Hmong army. The remains of ordinance left behind play a role in everyday life, with bomb fragments serving as fence posts, planter boxes and various other uses by villagers. The surrounding mountains are also home to several ethnic minorities, including the Thai Dam, Phuan and Hmong, the largest minority in the area.
Exploring the mystery that is the Plain of Jars, you have the opportunity of heading to 3 main sites where over 500 jars are spread, varying in height from 1 to 3 meters tall and the largest over 2.7 meters wide. It is said that the heaviest jar weighs 6 tons. The purpose of these Jars, thought to have been carved from solid rock around 3,000 years ago, remain a mystery even today. There have been recent UNESCO sponsored projects to determine the history of the jars, though popular theory is that they were funerary urns, with the lid of each jar depicting who was inside.
Whilst in Phonsovan we will usually include a tour with your guide to visit the local market in town, where ethnic minorities (including Thai Dam, Hmong, and Phuan) from the surrounding villages usually gather. Depending on the pace of your tour, there may be some time for more exploration of the township or the surrounding region where the affects of the Secret War are still visible and bomb casing's are used to support buildings and act as planter pots for flowers and vegetables.
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The guides and drivers couldn't have been better, 10 out of 10. Dao was outstanding. He made the trip extra special for us. His knowledge of the area and the whole country, history etc. was fantastic. He was brilliant with the children too, he made the trip fun, exciting and safe. If ever he was talking to a local in Lao, he would always involve us in the conversation and explain what was happening. At the end of our 9 days with him we didn't want him to go.