Plain of Jars

Travel Guide Asia Laos Plain of Jars

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Introduction

The Plain of Jars is in Central Laos. The Plain of Jars combines ancient and contemporary history with insights into Phuan, Hmong, Khmu and Tai Dam culture. Nature encounters are easily accessible off the beaten track.

Unlike ancient Greece or the First Emperor of China that date from around the same time, very little is known about the civilisation that created the Plain of Jars. More recently, the area suffered badly due to heavy bombardment by Americans during the Vietnam War. The locals have found imaginative ways to rebuild their lives and surroundings, sometimes using the remnants as part of their daily life; bomb fragments became spoons, and a distinct Xiengkhouang-style of architecture has been created, incorporating bombshells as building material and décor for houses.

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Sights and Activities

In Phonsavan, many different companies offer tours of the Plain of Jars and optionally around surrounding villages and other sights. See the Phonsavan section for activities and attractions around the Plain of Jars.

There are hundreds of jars across the various sites. Some were damaged in the Indochina War and some during the invasion of Chinese bandits; unfortunately, more recently, they have been showing wear and tear caused by repeated climbing by tourists. Some of the sites have impressive bomb craters and jars split by the force of the bombing.

Jar site 1 is one of the most impressive and the easiest to get to. Entrance fee to Site 1 is 15,000 kip and to Site 2 and 3 10,000 kip each. Take a (motorbike) tour to Jar site 2 and 3. However, there are few signs, so don't be afraid to ask local people for the way or look for the blue and white painted sign to go to site 2 or a spray painted sign on an electric post to find site 3. There is a nice easy hike between the two sites, and is suitable for families. The path was cleared of unexploded ordnance in 2007, but visitors are strongly advised to follow the red and white markers.

Other visitable sites include Jar sites 16, 23 and 52.

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By Plane

The nearest airport is in Phonsavan. Lao Airlines offers six flights a week in peak season and four flights in low season to Vientiane.

By Bus

If you are travelling to Phonsavan from Vientiane you can take either VIP buses or local buses. The buses leave from the northern bus terminal and take about 10-12 hours. Note: The roads are paved but there are plenty of bends. The bus trip from Vang Vieng takes 7-8 hours. Buses run daily from Luang Prabang via Rte 13 and 7 and take 8 hours. You could also hire a minivan in either Luang Prabang or Vientiane.

Coming from Vinh or Hanoi in Vietnam, visas are available on arrival at the Nam Ka border crossing, which is open daily from 06:00–18:00. The bus from Vinh leaves four days a week and takes 12 hours. There is one per week from Hanoi.

To get to other towns in the province you can take local buses or pick-up trucks. Inside Phonsavan there are plenty of tuk-tuks, which might not be available without prior booking very early in the morning or late at night. A normal tour inside the town should cost 3,000-10,000 kip. There are 9 travel agents in Phonsavan that arrange bike, motorbike and car rentals. A bike costs depending on quality from 20,000 kip per day. You can rent scooters for about 100,000 kip/day (70,000 kip in low season). The roads to the Site 1 are paved or in very good state. To rent a minivan costs about USD50-80, a four-wheel-drive costs over USD100. Depending on the company, the cost either includes or excludes petrol. All prices greatly vary depending on season and availability.

Note that tuk-tuks are not allowed to take tourists to jar sites. You can visit the site with a certified guide or individually.

Take a motorbike. All of them are semi-automatic, so you do not need to be an experienced biker. You can visit all three jar sites even though sites 2 and 3 can get a little tricky if it rains. You may not go to few other places like War Spoon Village unless you have an expensive tour guide. Even if it is a planned move by the tour companies, it still is fun to ride through the villages. Ask for a map at the rental place or your guest house.

You can also bicycle to Jar site 1 from Phonsavan. Depending which map you believe, it's 8-15 km away and although the roads have some inclines it's possible to cycle there without being especially fit (maximum 45 min). It's easy to find: the junction off the main road is signposted and from that village it's 2.5 km. Parking your bike at Jar site 1 costs 2,000 kip on top of the entrance fee. If your arrive before 07:00, the site is deserted and nobody will ask for an entrance or parking fee.

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Eat

Don't bank on eating a meal along the road between Phonsavan and Jar site 1 as once you leave the outskirts there's only one village. You can buy water and snacks. There is a small cafe at site 1.

The nearest place for food is Phonsavan.

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Drink

There are several salabeers around Phonsavan overlooking small lakes. The best to find are opposite Maly Hotel or on the road to the airport near Nam Ngum market.

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Sleep

Phonsavan has a wide range of hotels from simple guesthouses to more luxurious hotels and even a French boutique hotel on top of a mountain.

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This is version 1. Last edited at 14:30 on Mar 6, 19 by Utrecht. 1 article links to this page.

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