Monday, August 17, 2015

Laos: Phonsavan & Mysterious Plain of Jars

Date Visited: 29th - 31st July 2013 

After stayed for a day in Vang Vieng, we then packed our bag and proceed to the next destination, Phonsavan, the capital of Xieng Khouang province in Central Laos. The bus ride took almost 7 hours with one toilet break and trust me, sometimes you wish you will never have ride on it. Although the road are paved perfectly with amazing scenery but it was one extremely stomach-churning bus ride. Except for both Jeff and I, all the passengers inside the bus were local and almost all of them vomited non-stop throughout the ride. Luckily I got the seat nearby the window, opened it and got instant fresh air or else, I will non-stop vomiting too.

Air-con minivans from Vang Vieng leave to Phonsavan at 9:00am with the cost of 110,000 kip (approx. to US$14 or RM50). We reserved and booked directly from the guesthouse we stayed in Vang Vieng.

Laos - Phonsavan 02
#1: Phonsavan, the capital of Xieng Khouang province in Central Laos

Generally, Phonsavan is well-known for two reasons; claimed to be one of the most heavily bombed places in the world and secondly, for its mysterious Plain of Jars, which believed to be funeral urns dating back to the Stone Age. Phonsavan is a very small, quiet and dusty little old town with somekind of unfinished feel. Phonsavan is less popular among Vang Vieng and Pakse, hence there are only few visitors here.

Accommodations in Phonsavan
Options for accommodations is handful especially on budget guesthouses. Try to look around these budget guesthouses centered in the main street and travel guidebooks like Lonely Plane normally recommend Nice Guest House, White Orchid Guesthouse or Kong Keo Guesthouse. As we went during the off season, hence we got a room as low as 60,000 kip (approx. to US$8 or RM27) without air-con. Majority of these guesthouses come with WiFi, as I believe this is one of essential things looking forward by most travellers. 

Laos - Phonsavan 01
#2: Nice Guesthouse - A room attached with private bathroom for only 80,000 kip without air-con

Although Phonsavan is just a small town, a post office, banks and internet cafes can be found along the main street. There is also a local fresh food market not far away from the main street selling not just daily groceries, but something strange and unpleasant were sold here too. 

Laos - Phonsavan 10
#3: Not just deaad squirrels and bats (top right) sold in the market but can anyone tell me what's on the left photo?  

Travel Around Phonsavan

Laos - Phonsavan 08
#4: Tuk-tuk around Phonsavan 

There are plenty tuk-tuks around Phonsavan but in order to travel to Jar sites, tuk-tuks are not allowed to bring tourists for safety purposes. Only certified tour guides are allowed to do so. We booked the Plain of Jars tour recommended by the guesthouse we stayed with the cost of 200,000 kip (approx. to US$25 or RM90).

Tours Around Plain of Jars
Our tour started around 9am local time where the tour guide picked us up directly from our hotel. The tour guide himself was very young, like in his early 20's or maybe not. Along with us were a mother and daughter from Switzerland joining this unsolved mystery tour. 

Laos - Phonsavan 09
#5: Decommissioned unexploded ordnance (UXO) in MAG Office - UXO Visitor Information Centre

Laos - Phonsavan 03
#6: Impressive 30-m tall That Foun is an ancient stupa located in the heart of Muang Khoun

Laos - Phonsavan 05
#7: The Buddha statue in Wat Piawat

I'm not sure how many Jar sites there are but tourists were only allowed to visit Jar Site 1, 2 and 3 only as the these three main Plain of Jars sites are considered reasonably free of UXOs. Jar Site 1 is the most easiest and impressive to get into. There is a nice and easy hike between the Jar sites 2 and 3, and is suitable for families. The path was cleared of unexploded ordnance in 2007, however visitors are strongly advised to follow the red and white markers. By the way, the white markers indicates that MAG have cleared surface and deep ordinance as for the red zone, it indicates that only surface ordinance has been cleared.

Laos - Phonsavan 06
#8: Plain of Jars Site: 1

Laos - Phonsavan
#9: These huge and massive jars were used as funerary urns or catch rain water. 

Laos - Phonsavan 07
#9: Plain of Jars in Site 1

Honestly, there isn't a much thing to do in Phonsavan, except for Plain of Jars, which is famed for. I would advise to spend at least two days one night here as each Jars site is quite distance away. By the time our tour ended, it almost 5pm local time. 

[Credit To: Travelfish.org,Wikitravel, Wikipedia]

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