Thursday, 3 July 2014

Plain of Jars in Ponsavan / Xiangkhouang

Plain of Jars in Ponsavan / Xiangkhouang

Prices are in kKip = 1000 Kip, exchange rate about 1 THB = 245 Kip, 1 USD = 8 kKip, 1 EUR = 11 kKip. THB are accepted as payment in Vientiane and Ponsavan / Xiangkhouang.

Monday, 03.03.2014 Vientiane to Ponsavan

Check out (but leave luggage in guesthouse), say goodbye to my Lao friend (encounter in Boyztown Pattaya, was in Lao when I went there for visa run, stayed with me two days in Vientiane).

Pick up my passport at Thai embassy: arrive 13:05, gate open, but have to wait outside. Enter 13:30, few people around, pick up passport with tourist visa, leave 13:38.

Spend the day walking around in Vientiane. Buy ticket for bus to Ponsavan at Green Discovery Lao (200 kKip, pick up at office 6 pm, bus will leave 8:30 pm and arrive 7 am).

Back at the office 5:55 pm. Van leaves 6:10 pm. Drive around Vientiane to pick up other passengers. Arrive at northern bus station (kilometers out of town) 7:10 pm. Board bus 7:45 pm, bus leaves 8:03 pm. This is one of the last buses, shops closed and lights went off while I waited. To my surprise, this is a real sleeping bus. No reclining seats (can’t sleep in them), real beds!


At the end, there are beds for children, smaller than beds for adults (and even in bed for adult, when I stretch out head and feet touch the ends). I had a ticket for the lower berth (which suits me fine, easier to get in and out, and if you fall out it’s not deep), but this was already occupied by a Lao woman who proclaimed to be sick, no further discussion, so I took the upper berth. One person slept on the floor. Overall, an enjoyable ride, would take it again and recommend it to friends.

Tuesday 04.06.2014 explore Ponsavan and surroundings on bike

General observations: small town, has some guesthouses and restaurants that cater to foreigners. A bit stretched out, walking would take a lot of time.

Arrive at bus station 6:40 am. Bus station is kilometers from town center, van to town center 20 kKip, 6:45 to 55. Inquire for tours to plain of jars, check into next guesthouse (100 kKip per night, early check-in free) and sleep. Get up 8:30 am and have breakfast, but the 9 am tour is full! Book tour for tomorrow, 200 kKip.

Rent a bicycle 30 kKip and ride to the nearest jar site, 10:07 – 11:07, including 10 minutes stop at tourist information (dislpay of unexploded bombs). 


NOT RECOMMENDED. The bike has serious maintenance issues (brakes, gear), the ride is hot, sunny and dusty. Pictures from jar site 1:






Bomb crater, but where is the discharged soil? 



Warning for land mines and uxo (unexploded ordnance), the trails that are safe are marked:


white side: safe, red side: not safe (stones on both side of the trail, only one in picture), bomb crater with sign:


Return to town. Spend about 2-3 pm at Mulberry Silk (about 500 m west of bus station on opposite side of the road). Recommended! One lady explained the whole process from caterpillar to silk, dyeing with natural dyes, weaving. The tour is free, but I made a 50 kKip donation and bought mulberry jam and tea (25 kKip each). The pupa is boiled with water to kill it, then the silk is unwound and the pupa is eaten. A friend once told me the pupa is that delicious that it doesn’t get sold, they eat all of them on the spot. Now I finally had the chance to eat pupa and find it mediocre.

Floor and ceiling are white from burned lime, to keep ants and rats away.






Cycle to lake and cemetery on hill.









In the evening, walk around in town, uxo used for decoration near former airport (now golf course and market):


At night go to the night market and watch locals play pool or computer games (but not on a computer, they have tables with large screens where locals stand around and press buttons, everything on screen very colorful, the labels looked Chinese language to me). At the night market, chat with a group of boys in Thai language, they even follow me to my guesthouse. Seems everyone in Lao speaks Thai, and if I take a closer look, I can even read Lao script.

"Sticky rice with mango is delicious" in Thai and in Lao: 

ข้าวเหนียวมะม่วงอร่อยแซ่บวอร์
ຂ້າວເຫນີຍວມະມ່ວງອຮ່ອຍແ໘່ບເວອຮ໌

(The Lao was written by a Thai friend, so it might not be how Lao people say it, just Thai in Lao letters.) 

Rdng L whn y cn rd Th s lk rdng nglsh wth vwls mssng.*

Wednesday 05.02.2014 tour to plain of jars

Get up 8 am and have breakfast (included in price, little choice). Weak sunburn from cycling the day before and running nose and right eye swollen and red. I must be allergic to something in the room, as my condition got better and problems finally disappeared in the course of the day, but the following morning the problems were back.

While I wait for the van, a lady who looks like a local chats me up. “I saw you chatting with some yesterday.” I am preparing for “You dirty pedophile, if I see you again chatting with minors, I will cut your balls off!”, but no, just some small talk. She is Lao and has been living in the USA for decades.

Van leaves 9:15 am and arrives 9:40 am, including a police stop to check license. Site 1 again:






Leave site 1 10:50, arrive site 2 11:25.










Leave site 2 11:50, lunch 11:55-12:40.

Arrive site 3 12:55, leave 13:38.






Site 3 requires some walking:


Russian tank 13:57-14:05



14:19 Whisky village, 1 liter of home-made rice whisky is sold for 10 kKip (no typo, that’s about 1 Euro or 1 USD per liter, cheaper than water!) Free sampling, even as an anti-alcoholic I would say: suitable for human consumption. Back 14:55.



Already activity at the market, gambling (?), snooker, roller-skate. Walk around, visit MAG (Mines advisory group, exhibition about uxo) 7:40 to 8 pm, free entry, 40 kKip donation.

More use of uxo for decoration:



Buy an aluminium spoon at the market (1 kKip, in Luang Prabang they cost 15 kKip). I missed the village where they cast aluminium spoons from war scrap! (“Bombs to spoons” is a bit far-fetched, airplanes are made of aluminium, bombs are made of steel).

Animals at the market: live piglets in carrier boxes and dead badger (?):




Thursday 06.02.2014 Ponsavan to Luang Prabang

Alarm 7 am, running nose and swollen eyes, same as yesterday. It’s so cold that moisture from breath condenses and forms clouds. Tuk-tuk to bus station 7:30-42. Bus departs 8:48. Chat with a German couple who do a past-university-pre-work trip through South-East Asia and spend on average 45 EUR per day for two.

Continued here:

There is more to see and to do, but that information is not on the internet (but can be found in travel agencies in Ponsavan, however I had planned 2 days / 2 nights and didn’t want to stay longer), and there is no public transport. Tourist information, more sites of interest:


*Reading Lao when you can read Thai is like reading English with vowels missing.

Copyright 2014 ChristianPFC

6 comments:

  1. Absolutely fantastic and long awaited report. I almost lost hope you will report from there but clearly underestimated you, sorry!

    Plain of Jars is my favorite place in Laos , visited last year but dreamt about going there ever since I heard about the place when is was heavily and secretly bombed during Vietnam war, hence so many bomb shells and other war toys.

    Due to time constraints I visited place from Luang Prabang by rented car and driver. Not recommended as it's pretty far, about 400km, it's better to do what you did and spent overnight in Phomsavan. On return driver was falling asleep behind the wheel and you know the road.

    By the way , I have fridge magnet bought at site 1 and it exactly like your picture nr. 5 from that site

    You made my day, thank you.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This sleeperbus is a Chinese invention, though they are now also being built in Vietnam (only brand there: Hyundai, Korean). banned in many countries, also TH, due to safety concerns. Did it have those special small lockers for shoes?
    (Lao superstition or custom=just how you look at it: ladies are simply not supposed to be above men. same for overcrowded normal buses-only men can sit on roof.

    ReplyDelete
  3. You're welcome, vinapu. Just back from Cambodia, thought I will post this visa run (Lao) while away on the next (Cambodia).

    Don't remember small lockers for shoes, I think they were all kept in the aisle. Woman cannot be above men? Interesting! But she was on the lower berth before I entered.

    I find this bus (real beds instead of reclining seats) is a great idea.

    ReplyDelete
  4. but what are the jars used for?

    ReplyDelete
  5. That's the draw of the place - mystery. Theories abound / grain storage , funerary urns, wine storage / but nothing sure. The same goes with origin and their age

    ReplyDelete
  6. thank you & thanks cpfc for posting

    ReplyDelete

Comments are currently unmoderated and open to everyone. I will see how this works out and might switch to moderation. Please sign your comment with a name or identifier.