Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars
Phonsavan Travel Blog› entry 5 of 11 › view all entries
It was far colder than either of us expected. Bangkok is quite warm in February, but here is it barely above freezing at night. Our tour guide for the Jars is only a teenager. He recites the history as though practicing for a school final. At site number three (there are only three cleared of landmines as of writing), he rests his arm on the lip of one of the jars and a large piece breaks off and falls to the ground. Horrified that a 4000 year old artifact has been broken in my presence, I grab the 20 kg piece and hoist it back into place.
There is some dispute as to whether the money I paid the travel agency covers the cost charged by the "park" entry, but it is soon worked out. We pose in, around, and on the massive jars, pondering their purpose and marvelling at their age.
The hotel in town, and indeed, many of the houses in the area have incorporated found UXO (unexploded US military ordnance) into their building constructions. There are fences made entirely out of bomb shells. This area has the unlucky distiction of being the most bombed place on earth. At least they have made some use out of their misfortune.
On our last morning, we are taken to a Hmong village, supposedly the village created when a nearby CIA-funded Hmong village was overrun at the end of the Vietnam War. It is about as poverty stricken and basic as I've ever seen. Think "Lord of the Flies". Again, UXO featured prominently. In fact, these bomb shells are the only non-wood building components in sight. In one yard, I spot a lady chained to the ground. She is squating down and spouting the kind of nonsense reserved for the schizophrenic. I'm told by the tour guide that she's been punished for being a menace to the village, but I can tell she's as much a victim of her mental illness as she is of this society's ignorance of modern science.