No morning shower at the Hot Springs community lodge as too flipping freezing. Good to be cycling to warm up. Over the hills and down the other side and 15 degrees warmer – lovely. Pedalled into Phonsavanh, quite a busy and bustling town with lots of restaurants and guesthouses. Delighted to check into the Vansan Plain of Jars Hotel. Hot shower, clean towels, sheets and even a balcony overlooking the Plains. Everything actually works, pretty unusual in our experience.
A welcome lie-in before a cycle to Site 1 of the Plain of Jars, one of the four Sites where the unexploded ordinance have been removed. Sadly, there are over 200 other sites still waiting to blow people (and animals) up. The jars are extraordinary. Ranging in different sizes, there are a number of theories as to why they are here. They are carved out of sandstone, although local legend says they are made from mud, sugar cane, buffalo poo and sand. Did the conquering giant king use them for his rice wine or were they burial urns? No-one knows with any certainty. They are certainly 2,000 years old and lots of them. Why? Interspersed between these ancient vessels are huge bomb craters from The Secret War. The dense vegetation that once covered this area was obliterated and destroyed by the American bombs. Only scrub grass will grow here now.
A great lunch at Site 2 followed by a lesson in how to play Boules, Lao style, from Loun. This involves, beer, rice wine and shouting. Extremely good fun.
Walked into town to visit the UXO information centre. Deeply depressing stats around how much ordinance was dropped on Laos and how much still remains. People are still dying and many fields are abandoned as families are terrified to work them because of the risks. Several NGO’s are doing good work including MAG and the Quality of Life Association .
Despite this experience, the Laos people are amazingly positive, friendly to westerners and just want to improve their lives.