An Unsolved Mystery Damaged by The Bombs
We are on the plateau surrounding the town of Phonsavan, Laos. That’s 170 km north east of the capital city – Vientiane. In this rather remote region, an ancient civilization flourished and left us a very strange yet fascinating testimony: stone jars. Thousands of them.
It was about 2000 to 2500 years ago, during the Iron Age. That’s about all we know about these stone jars, carved in boulders found locally.
Archaeologists can only guess what they they were made for, and no hypothesis is today more widely accepted than another. It is supposed that they were related to funeral rituals, but again there is no way to be sure.
What we call the Plain of Jars actually is an really big archaeological region. No less than 90 jar sites have been recorded, but only the sites 1, 2 and 3 are open to visitors. Why? They are the only sites that were properly cleaned up from mines.
GPS (parking area): Site 1: 19°25’48.99″N, 103° 9’19.44″E | Site 2: 19°19’14.03″N, 103° 9’10.72″E
Best way to go: Tour with your guesthouse in Phonsavan. Scooter rental also possible.
Entrance fee: Site 1: 15,000 kip | Site 2: 10,000 kip
Duration of visit: Around 45 mins for each site (Site 1 is bigger)
Best season: October to March. Altitude 1100-1200 m, climate is cooler than other parts of Laos.
Indeed, the Plain of Jars has suffered from events that took place in much more recent History. During the United States’ Secret War from 1964 to 1973, the region was very heavily bombed and the aerchaeological wonders were not spared. As you walk among the jars, you can still see the remains of bomb craters, and notice how some jars are split in two or totally destroyed around that crater – See the first panorama of the Site 1 virtual tour.
The same happened to the temples of My Son in Vietnam, due to the related war on the other side of the border. Fortunately, in spite of this turbulent recent History, this region is still full of ancient wonders that will wake up the explorer in you.
I arrived in Phonsavan thinking I will just see a pretty site called the Plain of Jars, what I discovered there was way beyond a picturesque archaeological site. The wounds left by the Laos war, still present everywhere, made my discovery of Phonsavan much deeper and really interesting.