Thursday, November 8, 2012

Phonsavanh, Laos 28-29 Oct 2012

We arrived at Phonsavanh around 6am, when we step out from the bus, the cool temperature welcome us. They were no tout around. We were obviously the only tourist that step out from the bus. The bus station is 5km out of the city. We took a taxi to a hotel, a hotel which I picked from the internet. We checked the room and price and it was ok. Our room was huge with an attached bathroom. As it was still early, we took a nap.

Phonsavanh town

Around 8:30am we were prepared to leave. We plan to visit the Plain of Jars site today and then leave to Luang Prabang tomorrow morning. The tour agent at the hotel offer us a package, as the price was reasonable after some negotiation, we took it. Our day trip package includes visiting the 3 Plain of Jars sites, Hmong village and the crater site, all entrance fees and guide included.

The city was small with a huge main street, almost every shop or hotels have some kind of bomb shell on display, like a victory medal. It was shocking for me! Slowly I discover the history about this place. My god! 2 million tons of bombs were dropped in Laos during The Secret War (1953 – 1975). I can’t even imagine how much is that. Out of these 2 million tons, 270 millions were bombies, and out of that approximately 80 million were left unexploded leaving the country massively contaminated, as dangerous now as when they fell 30 years ago. Over 50,000 people have been killed or injured as a result of UXO (Unexploded Ordnance) accidents in the period 1964-2008. Over 20,000 people have been killed or injured as a result of UXO accidents post war period, 1974-2008. So it was not a Victory Medal, it was to commemorate what happened during the Secret War and how they are still suffering till to date.

Watch this documentary to find out more about the Secret War.

Locals nowadays make used of the war scrap from the bomb shells and tanks to make spoons, fences, tools, pump, BBQ fireplace and support for the house. MAG (Mines Advisory Group) has been working with the locals to remove landmines and unexploded ordnance from the contaminated area. They also create awareness by teaching the local how to identify the UXO items, how to report a dangerous item, what to do in an emergency, how to keep others safe etc. We stopped by the office in town to find out more about their work in this area and made some donations.
Site 2
Plain of Jars Site 2

Our first visit is to the Plain of Jars site 2, hidden on top of a hill under a big tree. There were about 80 jars scattered around. They come in all shapes and sizes, carved out from sandstone. All of them have a lip rim, which presumed to be covered by a lid. We found some lying on the ground. The view from the Jar site 2 was awesome, we were surrounded by paddy fields, forest and mountain. Our guide gave us an explanation why these jars are here. The archeologist believed that these are Iron Aged burial sites. However the local legends said that there was once a race of giants who inhabited the area. Some said the jars are used to brew and store huge amounts of lao lao rice wine. Some said it was for storage of rainwater. I believed more that this is a burial site. We visited the rest of the 2 sites, I especially like the walk to Site 3, where we pass thru the paddy fields and cows to get to the hill. Site 1 is the biggest having the most amount of jars and the biggest jar.

Site 3
Plain of Jars Site 3
Hmong Village

We moved on to the Hmong village, this small village is unique because they turn war craps into everyday used. We saw the giant bomb shell used as a vegetable planters, fences and pillar to support the house.

Our last visit is to the crater site, where we saw many huge craters just few meter apart from each other. We had a long day and for me an emotional day knowing what had happen to the Laotian.

Ban Khai Crater site

We leave to Luang Prabang on a minivan the next morning at 8am. There was no choice of night bus.

Dokkhoune Hotel - 120,000kip (Tripple) with attached bathroom, fan and WIFI

Day trip to 3 Plain of Jars sites, Hmong Village and Crater site (Private van)
- Include all entrance fees and guide - US$40 each

Taxi from Bus Terminal to town - 20,000kip each
Minivan to Luang Prabang - 120,000 each

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