Monday, March 13, 2023

Secret War & Plain of Jars

After crossing the border we drove another 70km and ended up in Sam Nuea in a little guesthouse. As Laos is one of the poorest of the SEA countries (being landlocked and bombed to pieces doesn’t help I guess) the prices were quite lower than on the other side of the border, but the amount of trash lying around was much higher πŸ˜•

First of many religious sites

Buddhism meets Soviet style architecture 

The following day we had to back track a bit to visit the Viang Xai caves. Here the Pathet Lao, the communist resistance, hid from the American πŸ‡ΊπŸ‡Έ bombs. With an average bombing raid every 8 minutes over nine years Laos became the most bombed country in the world, with more bombs dropped than in all of WW2 combined… 
The natural caves which were enlarged over the years sheltered sleeping chambers, meeting rooms, hospital, theatre, bank, army barracks and much more.

Then it was time to head further east, stopping at Muang Kham for the night. Not much to do besides drinking Beer Lao and eating sticky rice ☺️

So the next day it wasn’t far to Phonsavan, better known as the Plain of Jars. Here thousands of megalithic stone jars have been found. Ranging in size from 1 to 3 meters, up to 14 tons in weight and belonging to the Iron Age. Their usage is unknown but it is assumed they were used for burials. 

We visited the sites 1, 2 and 3 of more than 90 sites found. But sadly most aren’t cleared of unexploded ordnance. This spot had a strategic importance during the Laotian civil war and was therefore heavily bombed. Which resulted in some jars being destroyed and the landscape scattered with bomb craters…
On a funnier note, a group of Laotian elderly woman „forced“ us to an extensive photo shoot 🀣

Also in Phonsavan we visited the MAG UXO visitor center. MAG, the Mines Advisory Group, is an NGO which gets funding mainly from the states to help clear the land from UneXploded Ordnance’s. About 30% of the cluster ammunition used during the war did not detonate. These bomblets, about the size of a tennis ball, are especially dangerous to kids as they pick them up to play. It is estimated that only 1% of the land has been cleared since 1994 and that it would take over thousand years at the current rate to clear all of Laos. At the same time the US still hasn’t signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions and deem it as a legal form of weapon 😞

Different kinds of UXO, the „bombies“ are the little balls. Some are brightly colored, here yellow on the left, which makes them even more alluring to children…