Plain of Jars (Phonsavan)
Plain of Jars © Christopher Voitus
Located in the Xieng Khouang Plateau of Northern Laos, the mysterious Plain of Jars is an unusual sight and a must-see attraction. Visitors will find hundreds of huge stone jars scattered about the landscape, some weighing as much as six tonnes and measuring around six feet in length. They're believed to be over 2,000 years old, though their origin and original function remain unknown. The gaps in their narrative have allowed for many theories and legends to develop. One story claims they were made to ferment rice wine to celebrate a victorious battle against a wicked chieftain in the 6th century. Other theories have them as sarcophagi or funerary urns. The jars are clustered into 90 groups, with Thong Hai Hin, or Site 1, being the largest and most easily accessible site. Only Sites 1, 2 and 3 are open to visitors, as unexploded mines from the war lie around the other locations. Many guesthouses in the town of Phonsavan offer tours to the sites. As a precautionary measure, town visitors should stop at the Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and learn about the clearing of unexploded bombs in the area and throughout Laos. The site is situated several kilometres southeast of Phonsavan, which is a 30-minute flight from Luang Prabang. Travellers interested in visiting can hire a driver and either a 4X4 or a small tuk-tuk for the day. More adventurous visitors can hire a motorbike and drive out themselves. Sites 1 and 2 are well signposted and 3 is easy enough to find. The drive from Phonsavan is scenic and the people living along the road are generally friendly and helpful.