The Plain of Jars, Sites 3 & 2

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Photos by MJ Klein and Hui-chen

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Day 7 of our trip found us taking a flight up to Xiengkhuang province, primarily to visit the most dangerous archeological sites in the world, the 3 main sites of the Plain of Jars.  This is a must-see place for any visitor to Laos!

Plain of Jars, Site 3

We took this small plane up to Xiengkhuang province from Vientiane.  The trip took about 30 minutes.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

During the flight we were treated to spectacular views out of the windows.  These are some of Laos’ limestone mountains.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

This is Phonsavan airport terminal.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Here we see Michael Cannon leaving the aircraft.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Once inside the terminal we saw this map with all of the local attractions listed. After making our way to our hotel (details in the next installment) we set out on a tour of the Plain of Jars, Sites #3 and #2.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

This sign at Site #3 explains that the site has been cleared of unexploded ordinance (UXO).  in other words, all the bombs have been removed.  This sign shows the statistics:

  • Area sub-surface cleared: 19,260.041 square meters
  • Area visually searched: 4,878 square meters
  • UXO found / destroyed: 22
  • Scrap found: 6,863

Now you may be wondering about that last figure, the scrap.  Scrap metal is very valuable in Laos as a raw material.  Keeping track of the scrap was necessary to ensure that the scrap metal went to the local villages and contributed to their economy.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

This sign explains where it’s safe to walk.  One has to stay on the path, or risk serious injury or death from coming into contact with an unexploded bomb.  The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) has placed markers that show the cleared path.  You must walk between the white areas and avoid the red areas.  We’ll have a few examples of markers to show you in a few moments.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

We got our tickets to visit the site and then set out for Site #3.  The stone jars in Site #3 are located on a hill near Ban Xiengdy, Phaxay district.  This area is generally called Ban Kiengdy Plain.  Ban Kiengdy is a village populated by the Lao-Loum tribe, approximately 20 kilometers south of Phonsavan (the capital city) in the Latsen plain.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

The hike begins with crossing this bridge.  Not long ago, this bridge was a rickety bamboo affair built by the local villagers.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Here we see Michael Turton getting ready to cross the small river.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

To get to the stone jars at Site #3, you have to walk a narrow path through some rice fields.  Remember to stay on this path and don’t step off!

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Once you’ve walked about one kilometer, you will come to this fence ladder.  Once you climb over it you will be at Site #3.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

This is a MAG marker.  The right side used to be painted red, but it’s worn off.  More importantly, is the white on the left side.  This means it’s safe to walk to the left of this marker.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

These MAG markers show that the path has been cleared between the white areas.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Finally, we reach Site #3, and what do we see?

Plain of Jars, Site 3

An amazing sight!  Huge stone jars are everywhere!

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Some of the jars are broken.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

There doesn’t seem to be any order to the grouping of jars.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Some people have been praying at this site.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

The Latsen plain is absolutely beautiful.  We were all stunned by the sheer beauty of the countryside.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

This closeup of one of the jars shows a ring that was made presumably for a cover.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

Hui-chen poses with a broken jar to give you some idea of it’s size.

Plain of Jars, Site 3

The MAG markers were a constant reminder to be careful!

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Finally it was time for us to move onto the next site on our itinerary, Site #2.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Here are the stats for Site #2:

  • Area sub-surfaced cleared: 17,390 square meters
  • Area Visually searched: 15,85x square meters
  • Vegetation cut: 12,200 square meters
  • UXO found/destroyed: 26
  • Scrap found 770 (missing numbers)

There are 2 hills in Site #2.  The area is called Ban Nakho and the second hill is located to the west by approximately 300 meters.  The second hill is smaller and there are fewer jars but one of the jars on the second hill is special as it is the largest of the entire Plain of Jars.  This jar’s height is 3.24 meters, which makes it the tallest jar in the Plain of Jars, and probably the entire world.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

One has to walk up a long set of steps to get up the first hill.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Site #2’s first hill is shaded by huge trees.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Hui-chen standing with one of the jars, for scale.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

This jar has been broken by a tree growing up into the center of it.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

This is a bomb crater.  Of course the trees have grown here since the bomb exploded.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Here is another ring carved into a jar.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

At first we thought these might be lids.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

But subsequent research has revealed that these are in fact, grave markers.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Michael Turton and Hui-chen stop for a quick photo.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Next, we went down a path that Michael Cannon found and headed up to the second hill.  At the time of our visiting this site, we didn’t realize that there was a second hill.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

The second hill was absolutely gorgeous, wonderful views in all directions.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Notice the varied shapes of the jars.  Some are skinny like the one to the left, and others are quite round and fat.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

This is the path, with markers, on the second hill of Site #2.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

We found another bomb crater.  Many of these craters were very close to the jars.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Another crater, now overgrown.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

To be honest, I could have stayed in Site #2 a lot longer.  It was just so beautiful and I didn’t want to leave.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

The setting sun was magical.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Plain of Jars, Site 2

Michael Turton reviewing some of this photographs.

Plain of Jars, Site 2

All too soon, it was time for us to leave Site #2 and head to our hotel. There are far more photos than I can show you on the blog.  To see all of the Plain of Jars photos, you may visit the Flickr photo set by clicking this link.

In the next installment of this series, we’re going to show you where we stayed, and then Site #1 of the Plain of Jars.  We visited some other sites of interest too, so you do not want to miss it!

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Please note that this article is geotagged with the coordinates of Site #3, the beginning of our tour.

Thanks for reading!  We look forward to your comments, questions, retweets and recommendations!

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22 comments

  1. Pingback: MJ Klein
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  3. Great photos, looks like a great place to visit…just beautiful!!!! Looks like you all had an amazing trip!!

    Thanks for sharing your photos…
    Danielle

  4. Your pictures are fantastic. I have enjoyed seeing the pictures all three of you Michael’s and your wife took. I enjoy seeing pictures of places I will never have an opportunity to see in person. Thank you. MC’s mom

    1. thank you Carolyn. you never know – someday you may be able to visit those sites yourself. they are well worth the effort to go to Laos. you would love it there, i’m sure! thanks for visiting our blog Carolyn, and take care.

    1. hi Craig. the real issue is time. there was so much ordinance dropped on Laos, that experts say it will never be cleared in the “foreseeable future.” apparently there is at least a century’s worth of clearing yet to be done. the US provides some small funding but it’s really not enough. it’s too bad because for one thing, there are many more Plains of Jars sites that need to be cleared. thanks.

  5. As always, love the photographs. I especially like the one of the jar that had been broken by a tree growing up through it. I just read up on the Plain of Jars on Wikipedia.. fascinating stuff. I hope I have the chance to go some day!

  6. I have 2 questions about these sites….

    1) Any idea how old these jars are???
    2) Any idea what these jars were used for???

    Its interesting to see the size of some of these jars and the bomb craters in the middle of these sites.
    .-= mike01905´s last blog ..2010 World of Wheels in Boston =-.

    1. Mike, the Wikipedia article does explain a little bit about the jars. their use has been postulated as rain collection vessels, to funerary vessels to contain cremated human remains. at Site #1, human remains have been found in a nearby cave which was supposedly used for cremation purposes. also, human remains have been found in some of the jars. they are at least 2,000 years old, and probably much older.

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  8. Michael,

    OMG, you now have Hui-chen wearing a bush hat, too! What’s next, a petite-sized recumbent for your sweetie?

    Peace. Cool. Cya.

    JEFF

    1. hi Jeff. yeah, HC got that hat in Laos and i like it a lot. i got a green colored one (i wore it on the elephant tower trip) too. recumbent for HC? wouldn’t that be cool! she likes them scientifically, but she doesn’t like how they look, so i doubt she would ride one on her own. she did say she liked the tandem though, so you never know! thanks Jeff and take care.

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