Photo: What is in those jars?

The Plain of Jars

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In Xieng Khouang, there are plains and they have jars giving us the Plain of Jars. Clusters of one to four hundred megalithic stone jars can be found throughout the province and it is a wonder to see. How did they get there and why? The story of the Plain of Jars is two-fold, the jars themselves and then there is the devastation caused by the war. When visiting, both come to light.





First, the jars. While research is ongoing, as of 2013, over 100 jar sites have been found in the province alone, with 1999 stone jars counted. Given Site 1, 2 and 3’s proximity to Phonsavan, they receive the vast majority of the tourists who usually cover it in a day.

There are jars everywhere! Photo taken in or around The Plain of Jars, Phonsavan, Laos by Cindy Fan.

There are jars everywhere! Photo: Cindy Fan

Site 1 (admission 15,000 kip) is the closest to the city centre, located 7.5 kilometres southwest of the city centre off of Route 1D. It’s the largest, most investigated and has the most impressive concentration of jars. This includes Xieng Khouang’s largest jar (2.5 x 2.57 metres) and the only decorated jar ever found. Unsurprisingly, it sees the highest volume of visitors. If visitors complete the walking loop and spend time reading at the information centre, Site 1 takes about two hours.

There’s different theories about why the Plain of Jars people carved these stone jars. The favourite local joke is that they were for making lao-lao rice whiskey. The prevailing theory is that it was used for a secondary burial process. A corpse would be taken to a jar site and placed in the stone jar. When only the bones remained, they would be collected and buried in an urn or a pit. Site 1 has information about the people, the local legends, history and the UXO problem. It’s a good primer and it would make sense to visit Site 1 first, though be warned, many tour groups make it their first stop too.

Wandering Site 1. Photo taken in or around The Plain of Jars, Phonsavan, Laos by Cindy Fan.

Wandering Site 1. Photo: Cindy Fan

Interspersed between all those stone jars in the 25-hectare site are fox holes, trenches, anti-aircraft positions on top of the cave and bomb craters, including one that was caused by a 2000 pound bomb. The Plain of Jars held strategic importance during the Secret War and 127 unexploded ordinances (UXO) were cleared from Site 1 alone. On that note, Site 1, 2 and 3 have been de-mined and markers in the ground will indicate where to walk. Don’t stray too far from these ... please log in to read the rest of this story.


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