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The Plain of Jars

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Bomb Casing / Fence Post

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Sign inside a crater

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At peace in the market

PHONSAVAHN     On a second trip to Laos, I had to see Phonsavahn.  It wasn't hard to make connections into the "city".  People from various guest houses greeted arriving passengers.  I opted for one offering hot showers.  When it was a question of between $10.00 and $6.00, I had no trouble paying extra.    

The desk clerk, Vien Kham, arranged to be my guide to the Plain of Jars.  The tour cost me $30 in a country where the annual income was $230!  The jars were in three locations.  Vien Kham said the third site was the best.   It was so far away I never would have found it alone.  "Plain of Jars" suggested a plain.  In reality, it was a plot of land, half a football field, enclosed by a fence in the middle of a field.  The jars were 3,000 years old with an origin that remained a mystery. 

By the time our tuk tuk reached site two, we were covered in dust.  The second area, about the same size, covered the tops of two hills.  Unfortunately, the three thousand year old jars didn't hold up against vandals.  Vien saw broken fragments that hadn't been broken on his last tour.  The final site was close to the airport.  It had the largest jars but none of the ambiance.  Too much development took away from the mystique.

All three locations, as well as the rest of the countryside, had craters from bombs during the Vietnam War era.  There was a crater not far from the largest of all the jars.  In the middle was a sign that read "Bomb U.S.A."  In addition, some fence posts in the area were made from unexploded shell casings of bombs.  I even saw them used as pillars on someone home's porch.  Laos had the distinction of being bombed more than any country in history.  

Phonsavahn was one of the least tourist oriented tourist destinations I'd ever been to.  There were no souvenir shops, a scattering of guest houses, and a few places to eat.   I went to 2 or 3 restaurants and they had nothing.  My hotel was the nicest one in the town that I saw.  I could not have supper there because it wasn't ordered that afternoon.  The restaurant was locked up.  

Copyright 1998 by Phillip Martin All rights reserved.