After a half-hour plane ride from Vientiane, we arrived in Xieng Khouang. It would have taken about six hours by car. Xieng Khouang was the capital of the province of the same name, but was totally destroyed in the “secret war”. There was a short bitumen air strip in the middle of a grassy plain, no other airplanes, and a small terminal building with a tractor to bring out the outgoing baggage and bring ours in. Plus a mobile generator to keep the plane happy while on the ground.
We were picked up at the airport by our driver and guide in a flash Sports Utility Vehicle style mini-bus for the short trip to Phonsavan the new capital of Xieng Khouang province.
As it is very early in the dry season, we had our hunting lodge style accommodation all to ourselves – driver, guide, chef, hotel staff and us. Attendant to light the fire in the dining room when we were there, then in the lounge when we moved there, and finally back in our room. As it is up in the mountains it would have been a little chilly without the fire, but very warm and cosy with the fire.
Click here for a short YouTube video, less than two minutes, of our trip to the Plain of Jars from Phonsavan the new capital of Xieng Khouang province in Laos. Tractor towing trailer – long handlebars so that you can put a plowshare in the gap, children playing high jumps using a stretched rope held by one child each end, a very bumpy road and finally the Plain of Jars. Thousand of jars of all sizes dated to the Iron Age (500 BC to 500 AD).
You can’t help but be moved by the under-development and the war damage. It makes you want to donate and spend more to help the local economy, which we did, and also to want to volunteer to do something. US bombers dropped more ordnance on Laos between 1964 and 1973 than was dropped during the whole of the Second World War. Of the 260 million bombs dropped, particularly on Xiang Khouang Province, some 80 million failed to explode, leaving a deadly legacy. Laos is the most heavily-bombed country, per capita, in the world. We had to keep to narrow marked ways that had been cleared of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and saw the MAG teams clearing UXO. A worthy cause (http://www.maginternational.org/).
Then a seven hour drive through the mountains to Luang Prabang. Again just driver, guide and us. Wonderful scenery. Market towns and villages built along the ridges of mountains, the only flat land, with the school on the peak of the mountain.
More good work in progress, with World Vision providing much needed clean water and sanitation projects. http://laos.wvasiapacific.org/
Please click here for 34 pics from the Plain of Jars.