The Plain of Jars in Xieng Khouang Province is part of Laos’ Northern Heritage Route. On the list to be classed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, it remains an enigma to archaeologists, so you can imagine your own story as to the reason for this Iron Age site.
What to experience ?
The Plain of Jars is an extraordinary sight: hundreds of giant, stone vessels lying scattered over the grassy plains of Xieng Khouang as if flung across the landscape by an unseen and unearthly hand. It combines Iron Age and contemporary history with authentic insights into Phuan, Hmong, Khmu and Tai Dam cultures; inspiring natural landscapes with human genius.
Visiting The Plain of Jars is an inspiration. The jars and their minimalistic Iron Age aesthetics are forever part of the landscape and the only remaining witnesses to a vanished advanced civilisation. Hypotheses on the origin and purpose of these jars remain a specialists’ debate, but the evidence suggests the stone jars were built as funerary urns by the Iron Age residents of Xieng Khouang to cremate and hold the remains of their dead – the legacy of a highly ritualised and spiritual culture that flourished over 2,000 years ago.
It even survived the constant American aerial bombardments of the Secret War that transformed the landscape into a Plain of Scars. Regardless, villagers found imaginative ways to rebuild their existence: bombs became spoons, and a distinct Xieng Khouang style of architecture was created that incorporates bomb shells as building material and decor for houses.
The stories you will uncover will require time to listen and open your heart to understand. But then something very rare will happen: you may realise that there will always remain hidden stories and places that will never be fully understood.
In this cool and beautiful province of forested limestone mountains and undulating grasslands, you can visit more historical sites, trek to ethnic villages, waterfalls, hot springs and caves, and shop in handicraft markets.
A new novel and a website are good source of information, check www.plainofjars.net.
The provincial tourism office of Xieng Khouang, with the support of funding from New Zealand, is working to submit the Plain of Jars Sites to be recorded as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. They also work to develop the tourism potential of the Jar Sites and other attractions in the province in a sustainable and responsible way.
They help to design locally-managed tourism products centred around the Plain of Jars that involve and benefit local people, and which will help the government with much needed revenue to protect the Jar Sites and other historical and natural attractions in the province.
The local communities are closely involved in the attractions’ upkeep, raising their sense of place and ownership. In Ban Napia, development partners (Helvetas (80%) and GIZ (20%)) have built a weaving house and souvenir shop so that villagers can directly profit from both organised and individual tourists. A trek between Ban Napia and Ban Namkha creates employment for local guides and income from the trek for both villages. Villages are trained in setting-up and managing village funds.
Phonsavanh Provincial Tourism Office for Xieng Khouang Province is located near the agricultural market and bus station
Paek & Phaxay district, +856 (0) 81 212 483
Travellers from Vietnam can enter at the Nam Khah – Vinh border crossing (0600-1800 daily).
See www.ecotourismlaos.com/xiengkhouang.htm for further information on the attractions of Xieng Khouang.
Marker indicates Xieng Khouang not The Tourism Information Office …