Project Sekong 2013: Unsolved mysteries at the Plain of Jars

March 12, 2013

The Plain of Jars, in Xieng Khuang Province in the north of Laos, is likely to be designated a World Heritage Site, and has frequently been touted in guides as worthy of every traveler’s bucket list. The huge stone jars for which the plateau is named were carved from solid blocks of stone by an unknown people, for unknown purpose, perhaps two thousand years ago.

There are numerous jar sites throughout the province, some much more accessible than others. Most tourists visit only the three sites closest to the town of Phonsavan. Bragging rights go to the intrepid few who hike to remote jar sites on trails impassible to four wheeled vehicles in even the driest weather of the year.

Since the war ended forty years ago, thousands of tourists have visited Jar Site One, which features nearly 250 jars, some weighing more than six tons. But, it was less than ten years ago that the Lao government undertook the task of clearing UXO from the land under tourists’ feet. That effort resulted in the destruction of over 100 cluster bomblets—items that might have been detonated by visitorsthey had the bomblets been a bit closer to the surface.

Some tour guides in Phonsavan, knowing that most tourists have an interest in Lao’s problems with unexploded ordnance will, for a fee, lead people to sites where they can inspect and photograph live ordnance. And, one unscrupulous guesthouse owner is known to tear down warning signs over ordnance and present them to his guests as souvenirs.

Fortunately, the Lao government has recently opened a UXO information center where visitors can observe educational displays and view explosive remnants of war that have been safely deactivated.

One Response to “ Project Sekong 2013: Unsolved mysteries at the Plain of Jars ”

  1. Jim Kraft on March 13, 2013 at 9:34 am

    I am always impressed with you work, photos and cultural insights. You humble me for taking pride in snow blowing a couple of neighbors’ sidewalks, and/or housing a foreign exchange student for a couple of weeks.

    Be safe my friend,
    Jim Krft

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