Laos, in Southeast Asia, has a rich history traced back to the 14th century. She went through several tough periods including civil wars before gaining its stability in the 1980s. Tourism has gradually started to take place but many places remained undeveloped and are gaining greater attention for its untouched beauty. With its capital in Vientiane, Laos is seeing the increase of tourists with the development of Wattay International Airport. One of its significant attractions has been nominated as a UNESCO world heritage site (pending approval) and this is the Plains of Jars in Xieng-Khouang.
Remarkable sight of the jars across the field
In the northeast of Laos lies the province of Xieng-Khouang, which is also known as the ‘Plain of Jars’. The Plain of Jars is a spectacular archaeological landscape consisting of thousands of massive stones jars. The origins and uses of these ancient stone jars remain a mystery to archaeologists although there had been speculations that they were used as shield or as a hiding place for the soldiers during the war.
Visit the 3 main sites in Xieng-Khouang
This archaeological attraction consists of 3 main sites, which are most popular with tourists but it was mentioned that there are a total of 53 sites around Laos where these jars have been found scattered around the country. To visit these sites, you need to purchase a ticket costing 10,000 KIP (1.30 USD) for each site. Most tour operators would want to bring you to only site 1 and 2 so you have to let them know you would like to cover site 3, which is a distance drive away. Site 1 has more undestroyed jars but site 2 and 3 are very scenic.
These natural formations vary in height and sizes
The jars vary in sizes and heights ranging from 1 meter to 3 meter. The larger ones have sufficient space to conceal an adult in it. Many of the jars are shattered and it was said to be destroyed by the air force during the war. There are some jars around the sites, which remain intact. In case you are wondering, the jars are natural rock formations in shape of jars.
Do not step into these vulnerable ancient rocks
The jars are scattered around the sites on the fields and visitors can roam around freely to explore. There are numerous photo opportunities with the amazing jar rocks as well as the chance to feel and touch them. Though visitors are not prohibited to climb into the “jars”, you are encouraged not to do so since these are archaeological artifacts in Laos and you may ruin them further.
Use your panorama feature on your camera!
There are tons of picture opportunities at these sites. To capture all the jars in a picture, do remember to make use of the panorama feature on your camera! Morning and late afternoon will be the best time for photography. That plus the weather will be more bearable. As a tropical country, do take note of the heat and humidity in Laos. In November and December, the weather may be cooler but the humidity remains high. When visiting the sites, do not forget your sunscreen, sunglasses and plenty of drinking water! You can get water at the entrance but not inside the field so do remember to stay hydrated!
Finding the most effective mode of transport
From Luang prabang, the second largest city in Laos, it takes about 7-8 hours (about 250 km) to get to Xieng-Khouang through the long-winding road where vehicles are unable to speed. For those who are prone to motion sickness, you should make sure that you are well-equipped for the journey. To get to your destination by noon, your journey should start early morning at 4am or the night before.
You can choose to stay a night in Xieng-Khouang or choose to head back to Xieng-Khouang (which can be exhausting). If you are on a budget, taking the overnight bus will be the most cost effective transport mode. The bus will be filled with mostly backpackers wanting to visit the site but with so many passengers, you should be prepared that the journey may not be very comfortable.
An alternative way is to rent a car and driver. While this is a more expensive choice, you have the flexibility to the timing as well as the comfort of the entire vehicle. There are many tour agencies in Luang Prabang and you can approach them to compare the prices of a renting a car plus a driver. The prices do differ so you should do some homework! Most agencies will not do a day trip since their driver will have to drive for 14 hours in a day. If they do not, you would have to cover the accommodation charges of the driver overnight in Xieng-Khouang too.
A spectacular sight of nature not to be missed
The formation and existence of these natural jar-like rocks remain a mystery till date. The Plains of Jars is a spectacular sight by Mother Nature where one should not to be missed during your visit to Laos.
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