Plain of Jars
Trip Start Oct 22, 2005
224Trip End Ongoing
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Megs thought the driver was after a bribe because he played Laos music tapes at full volume for the entire trip. It drove the foreigners crazy with many of them putting in ear plugs. The only thing that stopped the music was when we picked up a local (and his AK-47 machine gun), dropping him off down the road.
When we arrived in Phonsovan we found a normal sleepy little town.
The next day we picked up some bread and cheese for our lunch and headed to the tour office for our tour of the Plain of Jars. On the way to the first site we stopped at the local stadium to have a look at the Hmong New Year Festival. It was just a quick look but there were the normal kids rides, games and food with a Lao touch. Basically all the games were the same except one that was a wall of balloons where you throw three darts to try and pop the them to win a prize. Not surprisingly they fix the darts so they won't fly straight.
Heading on we stopped again a short way down the road to watch some cow fighting, apparently a local tradition
Arriving at the first site (the only UNESCO listed one) we paid our typical foreigner entry fee, 400% more than locals. We made sure to read the MAG (Mine Advisory Group) sign explaining about un-exploded ordinance (UXO) and headed along the cleared path, staying between the white and red markers. Outside of these they don't guarantee you won't be blown up as they've only done a surface sweep of the area. Interestingly the mine sweeps only occurred in March this year and were sponsored by NZaid.
The jars were amazing. Huge rock sculptures made god knows when and moved god knows how to their current position. They don't actually know what they were used for but think it was perhaps as a burial jar. Walking around we took in the site with over 100 jars. It was also interesting to see the effect of the carpet bombing in the area. The fields are littered with crater holes and very few trees due to the use of Agent Orange.
Continuing down the very bumpy road we proceeded to site two. Up on the top of a hill in the middle of no where, again with another few hundred scattered jars (some with lids)
On the way back we stopped at a village where they made rice whiskey, but weren't keen to try any so it was a quick stop while the others had a taste. Arriving back in town we had a look at the old US airfield used during the Vietnam War. It is right behind the main street and looks untouched, though not maintained. We could just imagine a plane landing there between all the houses.
More noodles and veges for dinner then off to bed for an exhausted sleep (and to listen to the other hostels guests, a surveying team, party on into the night).