Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Plain of Jars --Mystery in Laos

The Plain of Jars is a large group of historic cultural sites in Laos containing thousands of stone jars, which lie scattered throughout the Xieng Khouang plain in the Lao Highlands at the northern end of the Annamese Cordillera, the principal mountain range of Indochina. In the context of the Vietnam War and the Secret War, the Plain of Jars typically refers to the entire Xieng Khouang plain rather than the cultural sites themselves.

Ancient Laos legends tell of the giants who drunk water from these enormous mysterious "cups". Similar sites were also found in Thailand and in North India. Their locations are strung along a straight line, which suggests that they were built on some kind of a trade route.

The Plain Of Jars is probably South East Asia’s most enigmatic tourist attraction. Situated in the remote north east of Laos, the mountainous communist country which has only been open to tourists for just over a decade, are hundreds of huge stone jars scattered across several square miles.

Jars of a deeply spooky nature

While most ancient Asian sites, such as the Angkor temples in Cambodia, have revealed many of their secrets, historians are still completely baffled as to where the jars came from, how old they are and what they signify. They are, in short, jars of a deeply spooky nature.

There are three key sites to see the Jars, three places where they are clustered together en masse, but there are apparently over 400 locations where they are to be found scattered across the plain.

Gathered together at the top of this hill, there were around 130 of them scattered about beneath the trees, mercifully undeveloped by any tourist organization. Undisturbed amongst the vast wheat yellow and sky blue horizon of the countryside, the jars did indeed seem mysterious, but there was also a sense of serenity too.

They were all at least a couple of metres long, and must have weighed several tonnes each, some upright, some leaning after being embedded in the ground, some completely toppled over:

All of them are virtually black, and their tall, narrow, hefty bodies make them look like crude cannons, pointing in every direction as if fearing attack from all sides. The darkness of the jars’ stone also makes them seem distinctly funereal and a little sinister:

The largest jar weighs around 6 metric tons:

The lids for these jars are also quite mysterious looking. They have as much texture and ancient feel to them as Stonehenge.

Some of them are filled with miniature Buddhas: which somehow feels very appropriate:

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