Laos is one of the most bombed countries in the world and in history. The Plain of Jars in Phonsavan was not off limits to this destruction. Many UXO, unexploded war ordnance, scattered around the countryside have been removed by an organisation called MAG – they have ensured sub-terranean UXO have been removed safely in the three Plain of Jars sites – walking between the white zones is advised – red zones have only been checked for debris that is exposed to the surface.
Local legends tell of giants inhabiting the area.
Souk came to the guest house to pick me up – dressed stylishly with his hair coiffed, I felt underdressed, just in a tee and shorts.
He said we’d meet up with his brother, who turned out to be his cousin-brother. Laotions tend not to make the distinction between immediate family and extended relatives – in their eyes, we are all brothers and sisters.
A quick stop at the petrol station, managed by a young girl. Even in small country towns, the youth get involved in business at a very early stage.
We met up with Souk’s cousin-brother, Nouk, and together we took a stroll around the Plain of Jars Site One. Here they are pictured together, peering into one of hundreds of megalithic jars.
Regarding the jars, they are believed to be over 2,500 years old and many of them remain intact. Its impressive to see that they are each carved from solid rock – from the same mountain many miles away – carted to each site by elephants.
Local legends tell of giants inhabiting the area – they would use the jars in funerary rites, encasing their dead in the jars for protection. In some cases, the jars exceed three metres in length, much taller than any human alive today!
Souk and I continued on to Site Two – the road here was wet clay, so we walked most of the way. The jars in this area are found on top of a hill surrounded by a grove of rubber trees. Imagine a fairy circle, place a few large stone jars and that is Site Two.
Here is an example of nature reclaiming her own. A hole in the side of this jar has eroded away over millennia, the perfect size for me.
On the way to Site Three, we pass through a traditional village – the houses constructed in the traditional style using bamboo and thatched rooves. Nestled amongst farmland, we cross a bamboo bridge over a river. The jars here are arranged in a shady grove.
Souk is standing in a jar that once may have held a giant!
At the end of the day, we took the motorbike to the top of a mountain overlooking the entire city of Phonsavan – the view from here was so clear you could see the mountains hundreds of kilometres away. We were blessed with perfect weather that day, thank you Phonsavan, thank you Souk.