Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Plain of Jars, Northeastern Laos
In a few day's time, I shall be leaving again for Hanoi, and I shall start a journey that comprises at least 3 border crossings. It will take me around 4 countries, following a spiral route that culminates in Vietnam's northern city of Hanoi - and ends in south Vietnam's Ho Chi Minh City, aka. Saigon. I am using these Vietnamese cities as gateway for this leg of travel mainly due to my familiarity with these places. It will be my 3rd time in Hanoi, and my 4th in HCMC. I shall conquer my pet peeve, i.e. border crossing, which I hate with a certain passion. In summary, it shall take me from Hanoi to Luang Prabang, to Vientiane, to Savannakhet, then crossing the border again to the 2nd Friendship Bridge in North Thailand to Udon Thani, then to Bangkok, to Phnom Penh (Cambodia), then cross the Bavet-Mocbai border to HCMC for my outgoing trip back home. Though my first HCMC-Cambodia border crossing was relatively uneventful last time, I will be going the other way - and border-crossings are always a bitch!
In preparation for this trip, I have been reading a lot about Laos, and I have come across a place called Plain of Jars. This is a plain in the northeastern province of Xieng Khuang where some 400 sites boast of hundreds and hundreds of stone urns - huge jars - enigmatically scattered on the ground. Believed to be dating some 2,000 years, their origin and purpose remain unknown - much like South England's Stonehenge or those statues in Easter Island. I am intrigued! I am posting these photos careof www.pbase.com through the brilliant photographic eyes of Mr. Tim Chong. Check out their site. They have more there!
There is little possibility of an actual visit. Some blog entries mention private charter tours that will take 15-18 hour return trips, with 2 drivers. Presently, no one is allowed to visit the site on their own. Though they have applied as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this application is still pending. One reason behind this is its safety! Laos is singularly the heaviest bombed country in the world during World War 2. In fact, some 2 million tons of bombs have been dropped in Laos during the great war. This makes private/personal treks in Laos a safety hazard. A lot of bombs are still to be discovered - and they can explode on you while you're clicking your camera! Anyone who desires a visit is required to book a tour! And most tourists are not encouraged to break such laws. Laos, after all, is still a communist country (it's officially a socialist republic) - and you don't wanna mess with the law enforment officers when you're traveling on your own! I am sharing this with anyone who gets to read this.
I shall try to log on - on the road - when possible. Sometimes, just writing entries while on the road makes me feel the proximity of home. For now, I am just praying for a safe passage.