Maybe you noticed already, that I’m a fan of Laos. This has a number of reasons, one being, that Laos is today, what Thailand was 20 years ago. It’s a laid-back secluded country, with lot’s of mysteries, unique activities and quirky originalities.
Can you imagine a place on earth, where huge stone jars are scattered on a giant plain; like the Gods just stood up from their meal and left all their pots and containers lie around? This is how it looks in a secret place in Laos –
welcome to the ‘Plain of Jars’:
The Plain of Jars is an historic cultural site in Laos, containing thousands of enormous stone or clay jars, which lie scattered throughout the Xieng Khouang plain in the Laotian Highlands at the northern end of the Annamese Cordillera, the principal mountain range of Indochina.
Lao stories and legends claim that there was a race of giants who once inhabited the area. Local legend tells of an ancient king called Khun Cheung, who fought a long, victorious battle against his enemy. He supposedly created the jars to brew and store huge amounts of lao lao rice wine to celebrate his victory.
Although there is no scientific explanation as to how these jars found their way onto the plain, nor what purpose they served, Archaeologists have come up with the wildest theories, among them a claim declaring them brewery cauldrons.
Other say, the jars are enormous urns, around 2,000 years old. There is speculation again, that the plain was at the connection point of old Caravan Routes coming from India and the jars were simply unloaded here, but forgotten in time.
Anyway, still today, Archaeologists and Historians are still baffled regarding their origin. No one knows for sure their precise age, who built them, or why and why they are all left at this plateau and nowhere else. They are swathed in mystery. Surrounded by mountains, the plateau is surely a magnificent place to spend eternity.
The containers are gathered in several clusters, some upright, others fallen over. They reveal scant details of their origins. Most jars are huge, up to nine feet tall, the largest weighing 14 tons. Some are carved of sandstone, others of granite, conglomerate, or calcified coral.
While some are round, others are angular, and a few have disks that appear to be lids. Tools and human remains found inside and around the jars suggest their use and manufacture spanned centuries. The bulk of material dates from 500 B.C. to A.D. 800, and additional carbon dates are currently obtained by Archaeologists.
The Jars lie in about 400 sites, of which only 3 sites are currently accessible by tourists; as there is lots of unexploded ordnance in the area; the results of massive US bombardment during the Secret Lao War in the 1960s.
Site 1 has already more than 250 jars alone, so you can imagine, how many thousands it might be all in all.
Archaeologists are certain, that the Plain of Jars is one of Southeast Asia’s most important archaeological sites today – just still one with more questions than answers. The Laotian caretakers of the Plain of Jars are currently applying for status as a UNESCO World Heritage site.
What you can do, before these sites are discovered by Mass Tourism -> visit them now!
I would say, that within 5-10 years, the ‘Plain of Jars’ will be more famous than Angkor Wat or any temple in Thailand, unfortunately with all the effects of Mass Tourism as well. Why not see them now, to capture the unique atmosphere and the flair of the place, before the arrival of Coca Cola and 5-Star Accomodation?
Just travel to Vientiane or Luang Prabang and check out your options! Currently it usually involves a few hours mini-bus ride through the countryside. Or you can fly into Phonsovan, the small town nearest to the Plain Of Jars. A good idea is to hire a local guide, who can tell you some old War Stories and Fairy Tales about the Jars. There are even a few now, who can speak some English.
Be warned though – some people say, they weren’t so much impressed or inspired than others. I tend to agree more with Chris Mitchell of Travelhappy.info; if you don’t expect a ‘Patpong‘ and read about the site beforehand – it is certainly impressive. As he put it:
“The Plain of Jars, like Stonehenge and any other ancient historical site, benefits from reading up a little about it first – the blurb in the guidebook is good enough – so as to get a sense of what you’re about to see. There isn’t much to see per se at the Plain of Jars, unless you’re prepared to let it trigger your imagination as to what these strange relics might mean.”
Another reward of course, will be a warm afternoon in the shadow of one of the Giant Jars, sipping a ‘Beer Lao’ and watching the time passing as you wonder about the Mysteries of our Planet and a deep satisfaction inside you, which connects most of the Explorers of our World.
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