I had always fancifully imagined Laos’ Plain of Jars to be a vast plain with mysterious stone jars stretching into the distance. I didn’t really expect the reality to match the fantasy. There is indeed a vast plain, but it is full of agriculture and industry. The jars are confined to small clusters in a few dozen sites, three of which are easy to visit.
It’s still not known for sure who made the jars, or what they were for. But the prevailing theory is that they were used in burial practices.
I had wanted to see the Plain of Jars ever since my first visit to Laos ten years ago. Today was finally the big day. Unfortunately, I felt terrible. The noodles last night made me sick, and now I felt nauseous. But I pulled myself together and rode to site 1. It took a long time to get out of Phonsavan. Industrial detritus sprawled in all directions.
Plain of Jars site 1 was strategically important during the wars, and I could see why. It was on a hill, with commanding views of the flat plain. There were trenches and bomb craters among the stone jars. The main site has been cleared of bombs, but unexploded ordinance is still a huge problem in the area. The museum had an informative video on America’s secret nine year bombing campaign, and the effect it is still having today.
My stomach felt queasy as I walked around the site. High on a hill a couple made an offering at a jar and a shaman sang.
I rode to the second site, which is further in the countryside. This site consisted of two clusters of jars on hills. There were nice views over the countryside, and of dirt road stretching into the distance. It would be fun to ride around on some of the roads. But I was still feeling ill. And weak.
I rode to the third site. I was tired and laid down in a hut at the entrance. I didn’t want to get up. I’ve gotten in the habit of always carrying my first aid kit, so I took my temperature. 101 degrees F. That explained the fatigue.
After a brief rest, I pulled myself together. This site had a walk through scenic fields. Normally that is a fun bonus, but I could hardly walk up the slight incline. I had to keep stopping to rest. I limped up the hill, looked around at the small site, and limped back to my motorbike.
The ride back to my guesthouse was long. In my room I slept for a couple hours until my fever went down.