Coronavirus, like influenza, belongs to a virus family that survives longer in cold climates, said The Japantimes. In response, our Indochina tour packages covering most heated tropical countries, such as Vietnam, Laos or Cambodia, are selling like hot cakes.
If you are seeking for a perfect escape from the frenzy pace of life and a prompt break from the battle against the Covid-19 epidemic, then welcome to Laos.
At least once in a lifetime, you must have heard of The Land of Million Elephants or the town of Buddhism, whatever people assign Laos with. Yet, little do you know, in this sacred kingdom, there is a mighty archaeological wonder that has embraced 2000 years of history.
Get lost in the land of spirited away with us. Discover all the untouched relics and well-preserved tribes’ heritage with a drop of the evergreen Mother Nature at the background. Medical Hotline in Laos
What are waiting for you?
- 1 How Laos Is Ahead Of The Game In Arresting The Spread Of Coronavirus
- 2 Trail On A Woeful But Majestic Cultural Plain of Jars Sites
- 3 Off the beaten tracks to Xieng Khouang’s ethnic villages
- 4 Bottom Line
It’s such a wonder that Laos still remains free of Covid-19. There were 53 suspected cases in Vientiane, but they were declared negative after four rounds of testing, said Deputy Minister of Health Phouthone Muongpak. The secrets behind this incredible accomplishment lie in the fact that Laos government has imposed a strict surveillance system covering all provinces nationwide, a uniform 14-day quarantine standards for all international institution staff and an inclusive scanning system at ports and airports.
In the same efforts, the government also stood their ground with a firm resolution of border seal regarding the Golden Triangle Special Economic Zone in Bokeo province adjacent to China and discontinued issuance of tourist visas to the Chinese.
If you want an update about Coronavirus in Laos in particular, as well as other SEA countries, you can browse to their individual Ministry of Health websites.
Health Emergency Hotline For Tourist in Laos: +856 205 406 677/ 166
Trail On A Woeful But Majestic Cultural Plain of Jars Sites
A Colossal Background Of History
Shrouded in the heart of Phonsavan’s verdant luxuriant pine forests and lush hills are exotic megalith stone hewn cylinders which potentially date as far back as the Iron Age (around 500 BC to 800 AD).
Residing together like a powerful gang, these enigmatic 2000-year-old jars exude a sombre and eerie aura just like a spitting image of the graphic-like Stonehenge or the voodoo paradise Easter Island.
It still remains a puzzle who were their original creators, whether it’s the nomadic Indian tribes or the giant King Khun Cheung. Legend has it that he made these jars from water-buffalo skin to ferment lao-lao (Lao’s whisky) and commemorated battle triumphs.
Since the 1930s, archaeologists and scientists have successfully excavated 60 sites of vessels scattering across rice paddies, forests and hillocks. Underneath these trenches hibernate tons of unexploded ordnance (UXO) and mines following the American Air Force’ 4-ton of bomb casting into Xieng Khuang during the course of 1964 to 1973.
Does this fact turn you into a scaredy cat or did it bring the inner hero out of you? Do not take a backstep, as every bomb-free path has been marked carefully and clearly by UNESCO mine detonators, it’s so safe to the point that you can self-organize a private trip without tour guides.
But what do these jars have to offer besides its tragic history about the US’ secret war against Pathet Lao and Vietnamese communists? Curious about what’d happen if you peer into their rim?
Will you find gold beads, skeleton or ceramic relics, since the majority of scientists have inclined towards the hypothesis that this field was a burial site? Or will you be welcome with some plain cobweb and water puddles, following another theory that this was the monsoon water trade point?
Whatever you may witness, do not jump to any conclusion until you are introduced to heart-wrenching but touching documentary footage of the 9-year secret war and the bomb detonating process in the middle of the British Mines Advisory Group’s HQ.
Most frequently visited sites
It’s critical for you to keep in mind that every site of the plain was heavily bombarded by American Air Force, among which only seven ones have been cleared.
The list includes Site 1, 2, 3 and 16 near Phonsavan, Site 23 next to Muang Kham’s hot spring, Site 25 in Phou Kout District and the giant Site 52 near Hmong tribes.
Site 1: Thong Hai Hin – The most well-known “Stone Jar Plain”
15 kilometres south west of Xieng Khouang’s provincial capital and right beside Laos’ military base camp is the legendary 300-jar Site 1. Hitting it and there you go, open the pandora box to an untouched mysterious East of Eden.
It’s not the largest, but it’s the most unique since the ground beneath Site 1 is more stunted than the others, not to mention it is still the crown-holder of the sole relief engraved jar revealed to date.
Site 2: Hai Hin Phu Salato
It’s a greener miniature of Thong Hai Hin, which lies 17.3 kilometres from Xieng Khuang Bus Station. Awaiting you behind a rather rustic stile are cinematic stone steps that divide the jars into two clusters.
Overall, you’ll feel like being on a treasure hunt, since the jars are shy away under succulent tree canopies at one side but also open to the public’s eyes at the other. What remains today are, like on other sites, bombed artefacts such as broken frog-carved discs and grave markers.
Site 3: Hai Hin Lat Khai
Located on the exit of Ban Naphia, Site 3 is an irresistible challenge for hard-core thriller fans. Throughout a-few-hundred-metre walk from the parking lot to the jars, you’ll experience top-tier alertness with unexploded bombies scattering under the rice paddies’ mud and besides the road lane.
Yet, they have been scanned by the UNESCO detonators, it’s just that you’d have been a little bit taken aback by the peaceful co-existence of villagers and these hibernating mini monsters.
Around 150 jars here seem to be more intact than those at the previous two, and they only gather on the hilltop, so it may be clear that they were lichen-covered urns.
Site 52: Ban Phakeo
This site is the definition of the beaten trekking route. The track is covered in natural clay and oversees a bamboo bridge. It’s a bit on the far end of the provincial capital, 27 kilometres away plus 16 kilometres into the mountain.
This is the largest site to date with 392 jars separated into at least three clusters. From here, you can trail to Hmong village and enjoy a day disguising as a local ethnic minority.
How to get there
- To reach Phonsavan:
Via air: Take a Vientiane – Xieng Khouang Airport flight by Lao Airlines.
Via bus: Take a Vang Vieng (0900 – 1050; 1330; 1540)/ Luang Prabang (0830; 0900)/ Vientiane (2000) – Phonsavan daily route.
- To reach the Plain of Jars: Rent a motorbike, minivan, tuk-tuk or walk on foot.
Off the beaten tracks to Xieng Khouang’s ethnic villages
Hiding behind those vast rice paddies and lush mountains are the lovely houses on stilts of four Laotian ethnic groups: Tai Dam, Tai Phuan, Hmong and Khmu.
Muang Khoun – Once The Kingdom of the Tai Phuan
Seated 35 kilometres southeast Phonsavan, Muang Khoun carries a separated history and architectural achievements along. Welcome to That Dam, which was severely scarred by bloody battles against Thai and Vietnamese invaders, as well as the Second Indochina War.
Wat Phia Wat is also a heaven to the Buddhism devout to contemplate a glorious Buddha fenced four-sized by ruined brick columns and 62 pure golden opulent stupas.
The Tai Phuan are the original wanderers, from southern China to Xieng Khouang plateau during the 13th century. Their own realm, Muang Khoun, was formed in protection of their land, forests and rivers. They are skillful farmers, fishermen as well as non-timber product manufacturers.
The Khmu share the same settlement at Site 1 with the Phuan, but with an even more diverse collection of handicrafts: hunting, rattan and bamboo basket/fishnet weaving and lao hai (jar alcohol) fermenting. Animism Buddhism is their religion and they presume objects aren’t soulless.
Tai Dam Cultural Hall
Originated from northwestern Vietnam, the Tai Dam travelled to Xieng Khouang in the end of 19th century and brought along their signature handicraft, silk weaving. They possess extraordinary customs and spiritual rituals. They share the same beliefs with the Khmu in terms of religions.
Approximately 48 kilometres north of Phonsavan stands a two-storey Cultural Village in Ban Xieng Khieo. You will find yourself immersed in a myriad of hand-made goods from rattan baskets to harvesting tools.
And, of course, you cannot miss out putting on traditional clothes if you’re an Instagram geek.
Ban Phakeo Odyssey
It houses the Hmong, the biggest group of people inhabiting Xieng Khouang. They inherit their Chinese ancestors’ talents at hunting, mixing Oriental medicine, animal rearing and horse riding. With a motley aesthetics, they create fancy batik patterned outfits with silver accessories.
Prepare a 2-day trek along Site 52 and hike a jar-packed mountainous route to get lost in a tranquil nature-dependent lifestyle and discover architectural relics.
Caveat: Do not miss the Hmong Sunday Market in Ban Tajok from 4:00a.m to 7:00a.m for fresh local produces.
Phonsavan has a wide collection of Laotian, Chinese and Vietnamese eateries. They are great for a laid-back experience with a lot of fusion dishes. Some outstanding names may include Lao-Falang Restaurant, Nisha Restaurant, Bamboozle Restaurant & Bar or Cranky-T Café & Bar.
But if you want an organic tasting session, the Phoukham Garden Market will do the tricks. Treat yourself to a hearty meal starting lightly with Xieng Khouang’s main crops – banana fritters, steamed corn or herbs to main courses like sticky rice with chili dip or Laotian feu (soup).
How To Shop Like A Local
From silk sinh (an embroidered traditional skirt) to self-composed bomb metallic jewellery, it’s undeniable that Xieng Khouang has become a mecca for tourists to select souvenirs. Buying straight from local artisans is also a way to improve their economic status, which is a practically good deed.
To differentiate local handicrafts with Chinese imported goods, you can pre-check the wanted product at The Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre in Luang Prabang or the Living Crafts Centre in Mekong. Or you can simply go to home studios of the local artisans.
Prioritize natural indigo dyed clothing and textiles (an intense combo of blue and green) but try to avoid any UXO/animal-derived products and accessories. You would not want lead and harmful chemicals from unexploded bombs to enter your body.
Haggling is a must when it comes to ASEAN country tour packages such as Vietnam Cambodia Laos itinerary, so please remember that starting off at half the designated prices on tags is the most appropriate.
In the age of Covid-19 outbreaks, most people would choose to travel to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand if they’ve got itchy feet during a long work break or if they can’t reverse their long-bought tickets. However, Laos, despite lower tourist inflows, is THE only South East Asian Coronavirus-free country.
Among all Laotian tourist attractions, the Plain of Jars not only satisfies low traffic of visitors, but also remains service-packed. Come here and see for yourself a golden combination of the most tragic historical stories blended inside an untouched archaeological puzzle.
But, the highlight is, an one-of-a-kind experience to share your meals and your life with innocent but skillful Laotian ethnic tribes, all at an incredible reasonable price.
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