Thursday, April 06, 2006

A Jarring Experience

We took a minibus (instead of the local bus) to the plains of Jars in Phonsovon south of Luang Prabang to give ourselves some rest from the arduous travel in Laos, unfortunately this did little good. The eight hour ride was a real life roller coaster and by the end I was spent and more than a bit woozy. I kept telling myself 'but I don't get car sick' and I even got the best seat in the van, in the front with the driver, not crammed in the back like Dan and the other 6 people going to the Jars sites. However it proved too much and I got sick both at the first Jars sight and when we were checking into a guesthouse eeeew. To say the least I did not feel well and still have not regained my appetite. The deal was that the driver takes us to the first sight when we arrive to see the massive stone Jars made by an ancient Asian civilization and the remaining two sites on the following day.
Walking around the site was a surreal experience, there are hundreds of the huge jars and even a cave in the vicinity. The sanctity of the sites however were skewed by the warning of UXO or unexploded ordinance all over. We had to keep to a strict path marked by cement markers on either side.
Mine advisory group
MAG is the Mines Advisory Group that is working on clearing the area of explosive materials, a seemingly overwhelming task considering the vast areas involved.
Inside the white is ok and outside has only been searched for explosives by sight. The Jar areas are also marked by big and small craters that pock the land as far as you can see. I am troubled by the fact that while I can feel safe in that the skinny path where I walk has been cleared of bombs, only meters away farmers work with land that is not safe.

The Jars however were fascinating
and huge, I just can not imagine how an ancient civilization made them, then I think of things like the Pyramids and Stonehenge and I still don't think that modern civilization has matched these marvels.

Jars Jars everywhere!


By the second day and after a lot of sleep I was feeling much better while visiting the other two Jar sites.

Maybe they grew trees in their Jars... or apparently, according to legend, a giant race of ancient Lao made the jars to store their lao lao (rice whisky) or maybe they were used as really really big decorations ...? I know I would want a 4 ton Jar in my living room.

Possibly they are even from outer space, clearly this lid looks like a flying saucer and the alien race of Gumby people who sent it were carved on top.

Is there not an obvious resemblance?

Now we are heading to a dark and lonely place, cold and damp where little life dwells, or a cave that is 7 km long that we plan to take a canoe through. This Kong Lor cave by the small village of Khoun Kham is a bit off the beaten track which is fine except that it may prove to be a bit difficult to get to, we shall see. Authentic (non touristic) Laos here we come!


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