Plain of Jars Day Tour: The Plain of Jars is a collection of huge enigmatic jar-shaped stones scattered across the landscape near the town of Phonsavan in the northeast of Laos. The jars vary in height and diameter but their shapes are all cylindrical with the bottom bases wider than the top. These mysterious stone urns are spread out across hundreds of square miles. Various theories about how the jars came to be and what purpose they served (if any) have emerged over the years. Although it’s thought that the site dates back to the Iron Age some 2000 years ago.
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Now for the next step in the trip.
We left Luang Prabang, Laos at 8:30 in the morning, taking a full-size bus rather than a minivan.
We learned our lesson on our last bus ride over the mountains here and while the bus is still not perfect, we preferred it hands down to the minivan on the last trip.
The trip took around 7 hours, as it was supposed to, and we arrived in Phonsavan at 3:30 in the afternoon.
We were met at the bus terminal by a great young man who was sent by our guest house. We are staying at the Khemphonelor 2 and the cost was very nominal at $8 a night.
Nice room, hotel less than one-year-old, cable TV with all prime channels. Really can’t do any better than $8 a night for a great place like this one.
Just a quick note, our last day in Luang Prabang, Laurel had stumbled and took a spill which left her with a bruised thigh and ego but no real injuries. She was determined not to miss the Plain of Jars Day Tour, so she went to get a traditional Lau Massage. She spent all of 50,000 kip which is about $6.30 U.S. Massages can be had for only a few dollars and with the amount of stress and exercise involved in traveling, this can really make your trip better. Get a massage about twice a month or so, as needed. Be sure they are a licensed professional before letting them work on you.
Mr. Yang, who met us at the bus station is going to take us to the 3 main Jars sites tomorrow on a Plain of Jars day tour. His price was $100 for the day which is a little higher than we hoped for, but his cost includes all entrance fees which is 60,000 kips plus parking, so the total for the day for the two of us was around $90. Still, more than we hoped but in line with the going rates. There are so many agents and individuals doing a Plain of Jars Day Tour that it is hard to get a group together but if you are on a bus and can get several others you can easily cut the cost to around $30 per person for the day. 9:00 am tomorrow and we will finally hit our goal of visiting the Plain of Jars. Should you be a little younger and are able to rent motor scooters for about 150,000 kips, you can take yourself to the sites. All three are within 20 kilometers of Phonsavan.
The ‘Plain Of Jars’ In Laos Is One Of Most Mysterious Places On Earth
No Sunshine for our Plain of Jars Day Tour
We woke up to a not so great day for pictures or for going on our Plain of Jars Day Tour, but we waited a long time and traveled a long way for this chance and only have one day here we had to make the most of the weather. Temperatures of 45 degrees Fahrenheit in the morning to 55 during a day with no sun and a 10 mile an hour wind, it was a challenge. The worst part was the wind and all of our shots (even singles that we did not use for HDR images) had to be shot using a tripod. The lighting was not as much a problem since we did have a lot of light, just no bright sun. It was cold when we went to Site 3 to start our day, it was a short climb to the top of the first mountain where the jars were located. It is in a beautiful grove of trees and we got great shots from this location.
Walking out into a grove of trees and being among historical artifacts that you can touch, examine and photograph, objects that are almost always found in museums behind ropes or like Stonehenge behind fences where you can only photograph from a distance. This was an amazing opportunity for anyone but especially for photojournalists. The jars themselves cannot be dated but some bone fragments found near them date from 500 to 1000 BC. Still, it is not known if those are the creators or from people who lived near them long after the jars were made. More than 90 sites have been identified in eastern Laos, with from 1 to as many as 400 jars at different sites. Only 3 of the sites have been safely cleared of explosive remnants from the Vietnam War (Secret War to Lau people). Still, that is enough to give you the sites you want to visit.
Site 2 was like site 3 except that it was divided into two parts with jars on two hills. The first in a grove of trees and the second on a barren hill a few hundred yards away. This site is the only one that contains any markings or images on the jars or the lids. A lid is located at the top with an image of what appeared to us as a running man. The lids, as it turned out, were not lids but some type of marker and probably had some images etc on them that has worn away with time with the sandstone being a softer rock.
Last was site 1. A collection of around 40 to 50 jars on top of the hill with one being the largest of around 8 to 10 feet in height and at least 6 feet across. Below that in a small meadow is a collection of several hundred jars many of which that had been damaged by bomb concussions. You can see one of the craters right alongside the site and the concussions played havoc with the soft sandstone jars.
With the Plain of Jars Day Tour over, we had a great night in Phonsavan and began getting ready for a ten-hour bus ride back to Vientiane and the last step on our trip getting our new Thai visas from the consulate there. We arrived at our hostel in Vientiane, the Lucky Backpackers, and it was a great place. Spick and span run by Mama and her sons, it was only about a year old and was clean and comfortable.
You might be interested in reading: Laos Adventure: Part One
We had heard so many stories about the lines at the consulate here and we followed everyone’s advice and got there 1 hour before they began taking applications. There were only about 20 people in line and we jumped in ourselves. There are two people out front making copies and photos, we had made copies but the photos we had were with blue backgrounds from Thailand but not accepted here. We had copies made and new photos for 60,000 kips, to make sure we had the correct information, without it, you go to the back of the line after getting it right and it was only $7.50 for the two of us. We got inside the consulate and sat on the benches waiting for them to take the completed applications. Around 8 am the buses full of people began arriving and there were hundreds of people behind us waiting. We submitted the applications and were out within 20 minutes with numbers 28 and 29 (which is good for both visits) and told to return the next day when we would once again be near the front of the line to pick up our visas.
Out of the consulate, we treated ourselves to a cherry danish and large cappuccino each, something we don’t do often. The following afternoon at 1:00 we returned to the consulate and retrieved our passports and visas.
We spent the remainder of the day relaxing and preparing for our flight to Thailand the following day. We will spend 90 days in Chiang Mai working on photos and preparing for a trip to the north when the weather warms a bit later in the spring.
We began looking for photos to shoot here in Vientiane. I had identified a beautiful Wat where people were burning images of their family who had passed on and releasing birds from cages to free their spirits. I had seen this the night before with its beautiful red lanterns and we will try to get a good night shot with our tripod and share it with you.