Friday, July 06, 2007

The Plain of Jars

Well, no one took us up on our offer to share a taxi to Phonsavan (the tour agent didn't encourage anyone as he was not going to make enough money, we soon found out...) , so it was back on the bus for us. And actually it was rather pleasant, even with Hmong ladies, with their babies on their backs and lots of live chickens wrapped in shawls, motorbikes strapped to the roof and AK47 wheelding bus guards - apparently the whole of northern Loas is bandit country but there have been no attacks for ages... Every bus journey is an adventure and you just pee on the side of the road if you need to, as there are land mines everywhere and not much between towns - the excellent invention of the sarong, comes in handy as a roadside screen.

Phonsavan is a realatively new town (after the Americans decimated the old capital city with their bombs in the secret war....the American senate and public were not told about the bombing of Laos until 5 years after the Vietnam war ended as they "scilenced" journalists), which consists on nothing much more than a main road, the market and bus station. We ended up staying at Kong's based on the old airstrip, formally built for drug running in the days of opium and now the local travelling fair ground and area used by the local driving school. Yes, I actually saw a tuk-tuk driver learning to drive, but clearly the lessons are not based on obaying the law...

The main reason though for us heading to Phonsavan was to visit the ancient Jar sites. The jars are amazing and are huge - each weighing at least 1 or 2 tons and the biggest weighing 13 tons carved out of huge chunks of stone which were carried to the sites. It is believed that they were used as funerary urns or water vessels for caravans of travellers in Eurasia, others beleive that they were put there by a tribe of giants and many myths and legends surround the stone jars and the sites. We visied all three of the sites, all really different as they are situated in very different areas with our guide, Locum who was fantastic. When visiting the sites, you become painfully aware of the devestation wreched by the bloody Americas during the Vietnam war, and their war on communism, in total contravention of the Geneva convention. They dropped over 900 000 tons of bombs on Laos, a ton of bombs, every 8 minutes for nine years solidly, more than all the bombs dropped over Germany and Japan in WWII. American pilots also dumped bombs, and were encouraged to do so, on Loas if they couldn't find their Vienamese targets or if weather conditions were bad, so that they wouldn't have to go through safety checks (only carried out if you were landing with unexploded ordinance on board) when landing their planes back in Thailand... A third of these bombs did not detonate and as a result there are millions of unexploded ordanace all over the country, trapping the Loatians in povery as they can't grow enough food, build roads, go into the forest as they are constantly killed by land mines and bombs. MAG (Mines Advisory Group) is doing a great job clearing things up and we went to vivist their offices in town, but the clean up will take decades and the USA is doing nothing, just continuing to drop the same types of bombs (designed specifically to kill civilians) in Afganistan, Iraq, Kawait, Cosavo etc...

After visiting the first two jar sites, Locum took us to meet his family as we drove through his village which gave us a real taste of Loatian life. We met his Dad, with his three wives, 13 children as well as his 110 year old great-great grandmother. She is now looked after by her grand children as she has out lived all her children. It was then off to the last jar site before seeing the most brilliant sunset.

As the following day was Lindsay's birthday, we decided that we needed a bit of a chilled one, and it was raining, but a bit of loa-loa (locally made rice whiskey) kept our spirits up and got the party strated in the booming metropolis of Phonsavan. Then it was back on the bus for us yesterday, off to Vang Veing reknowned for its adventure sports. Today we rode 12km on dirt roads, with granny bikes to go caving and climbed one of the limestone outcrops and tomorrow we are kayaking from Vang Veing to Vientianne. We have turned into adventure women. On the local front, if you are in the UK and wanting weed then just head to Lindsay's house. Her ex-boyfriend recently went round to her house to check that it hadn't been damaged in the floods only to find that the new tenant "a divorced travelling salesman" is actually a horticultralist and has turned her whole house into a three storey hyrophonic nursery for dope in Doncaster!

1 comment:

Modesta said...

You write very well.