The Plain Of Jars is probably South East Asia’s most distinctive and enigmatic tourist attraction.
The Plain of Jars is a group of fields containing thousands of stone jars cut out from rock thousands of years ago. These stone jars appear in clusters, ranging from a single or a few to several hundred jars at lower foothills surrounding the central plain and upland valleys. The sites are located around the city of Phonsavan in Xiang Khuang Plateau, North East Laos. While some of the sites contain just a few jars, others contain hundreds many of which are broken or have fallen over. Despite the best efforts of archaeologists, the origin and reason for the Plain of Jars remains a mystery.
The jars are believed to be at least 2.000 years old. They come in varying sizes up to three meters high, weighing up to several tons. Most of them were sculpted from sandstone rock. Very little is known about the people who created the jars. Although their purpose is not known with certainty, archeologists believe they were used as urns in burial rituals. In 1930, French archaeologist Madeleine Colan conducted research around the Plain of Jars and discovered bones, teeth, pottery shards, and beads.
For three decades, researchers risked their lives to investigate the stone pieces. Archaeological excavation is not normally a dangerous pursuit, but Laos is littered with thousands landmines or pieces of unexploded ordnance from the Vietnam War. Once the threat of unexploded objects is minimized, Laos intends to turn the Plain of Jars into a UNESCO World Heritage Site, opening the floodgates to tourism.
Not surprisingly, the site most frequented by tourists is the one closest to the town of Phonsavan, base for seeing the jars. Thong Hai Hin, known simply as "Site 1", is the first stop on the plain and a must-see for observing the only decorated jar found so far. Only seven of the 90 jar sites have been declared safe enough for tourists to visit including Site 1, Site 2, Site 3, Site 16, Site 23, Site 25, and Site 52. Site 1 is closest to town and receives the most visitors, but is not the best representation of the Plain of Jars. Site 2 is accessible from Site 1 by motorbike or tuk-tuk and then Site 3 can be reached by an easy hike. Site 52, the largest known site containing 392 jars, is rarely visited and can only be reached by foot. Please always remember to stay on the signed paths when walking between jar sites. The sites are open daily from 9 am until 5 pm. Entrance fee is 10.000 Kip ~1.3 USD per person to each site.