Plain of Jars

Luang Prabang (again) to Phonsavan
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OK, our second attempt to get to Phonsavan correctly.

More of these giant lilies just out-of-town
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Close up. Same variety, or species, as the ones at the fish farm on Sumatra
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We stop to see a caged fighting cock. The lady is crushing sugar cane in a press
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He’s a beauty. Skinny and mean-looking, pacing his cage
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The road is in terrible shape but the views are non-stop
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The road ahead with the usual linear village. There’s a feeling that the country is empty, for the first time in SE Asia. Example:

Laos – area 236,800 sq km (nearly the same as the UK) population 6.7 million

Thailand – area 513,120 sq km, population 67.0 million

and, for fun,

Island of Java – area 128,300 sq km, population 142.0 million, lol

There are only a few large towns and in between occasional villages that feel like they are about 50 to 200 people on average. The capital, Vientiane has a population of only about 680,000
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A large village
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This truck in a robust cage, somehow works in this banana plantation
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Nice
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And talking about flowers, that shrub on the right, the poinsettia, does very well here, almost forming small trees. It’s native to Mexico and Central America. It’s the most common flowering shrub we see
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That’s our road. It couldn’t be better except there are long stretches of ruin
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Riding from one valley to another, again
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River village
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To my hotel in Phonsavan. The front gate is made from a bomb casing and propped up with old machine guns. Story in a previous postIMG_1797

A bomb casing/planter by the front door
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Inside
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50% off topic, also on the wall is this pic of US soldiers with a monster fish taken from the Mekong near here
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Another munitions graveyard in town
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Soviet tank turret
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This province, Phonsavan in there somewhere, and a bombing map of areas hit hardest by the 270,000,000 cluster bombs dropped on Laos. legaciesofwar.org says Laos is the most heavily bombed country per capita in history
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A sign in the museum
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Another, of the whole country, and the ugliest photo insert in three years of posting. Standards are slipping
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But here’s the main reason we’re here. This whole area is referred to as the Plain of Jars. The ‘Jars’ here date 500BC to 500AD.

Most of the archeological heavy-lifting was done by a French woman, Madeleine Colani in the 1930’s. She is almost revered around here, you hear the name and see it printed frequently.

Walking to Site 1, as she classified it
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Jars, from 4 to 6 feet tall. Approximately 2000 have been found in 3 main areas
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They’re carved from rock as soft as sandstone and as hard as granite
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Carefully noted
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Reading about this, there’s a fair bit of speculation about them. Questions, like:

How did they carve them from granite? Only a few are granite, most are quite soft

What is the meaning of them? M Colani’s main theory is convincing. When someone died they were placed in a jar and a cap loosely placed over it. Maybe a year or so later the body had been ‘eroded’ down to a skeleton by normal natural processes, like bugs, etc.. Then the remains were removed and taken to sites like the cave below where they were burned to ashes. M Colani found skeletal ashes in the cave below, for instance.

That’s (most likely) that. But there are complications. For more, the plain of jars wiki

Site 1 1/2

A cave, next to the next jar cluster
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Immediately we see this exposed comb above the entrance. Wow, never seen this before. It’s the Asian honey bee Apis cerana
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And below a big terrific mass of bees
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Inside the cave, don’t know what that is
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Beautiful. Cave mound in the backgroundP1050358


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On the way to Site 2 we see workers slowly going over the ground for UXO’s. Unexploded bombs
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Up a hill
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One of the few caps that remain. Most were later taken away by villagers for grinding rice
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A wonderful walk to Site 3. This would be harder in wet season. These rice fields will stay fallow until June. The season varies from province to province, but this area only gets one rice crop a year
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An old bomb crater
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This bug was inside a jar. About 1″ across
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On the way back we stopped at this village
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Bomb casings support this house
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Old Soviet tank turret
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The Craters (falang) pub in town.
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The day’s wanderings, with guide and truck
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