A very underrated place, many either don’t bother taking the bus journey over or simply don’t know about it. Located in the northeast of Laos lays Phonsavan, literally meaning the ‘hills of paradise’ and that it is. Laos in general is a stunningly beautiful country, from the north to the south with varying landscapes. Here grasslands, pastures and pine forests thrive and are home to the Plain of Jars, the Stonehenge of the east.
Picturesque, mysterious and fascinating, the Plain of Jars is on its way to becoming a protected UNESCO World Heritage site. Ancient jars from the little known Iron Age civilization are scattered throughout the area. Only theories and myths really exist in both the construction of these urns and their purpose. Human remains found lead some to believe they could have been used as a form of prehistoric burial. Rice sparks the theory of a means of storage, while they also could have been rain ‘barrels’ for trade caravans passing by. My personal favorite is the legend of a race of giants. They had a great victorious battle and the king ordered these built to brew large amounts of rice wine.
There are three main sites with large clusters of the jars although many more exist. These can easily be explored via tours offered all throughout town or by renting a scooter and taking on the very bumpy roads yourself.
Phonsavan was unfortunately very heavily bombed by the U.S. during the ‘Secret War’ between 1964 and 1973. More bombs were dropped here by the U.S. military than they had used in all of World War Two. This left not only many of the historic jar sites damaged, but most importantly millions of unexploded bombs (UXOs) dotted all over the countryside threatening the population to this day. While programs have been set up to clear many of these bombs, many still remain uncovered. Sticking to marked paths is quite important when visiting this area.
How to get there: By plane – the nearest airport is about 4 km away, tuk-tuks costing about 20,000Kip.
By bus – from Luang Prabang the journey is about 8 hours, costing approx. 90,000Kip
From Vang Vieng it takes about 7-8 hours, costing approx. 95,000Kip