We took a minivan to Phonsavan on true Lao time - the driver first had to stop for air in the tyres, then fuel, and then brunch an hour later - we eventually made it to Phonsavan in time to catch some of the Hmong New Year celebrations.
There was a fun fare in full swing, packed with locals and pretty Hmong girls in their traditional dress - layers of multicoloured tassels dangling with bells and coins attached to tunics and all different shaped brightly coloured hats finshed off with not so traditional socks and heeled sandles! The girls stand in lines, abreast from each other, with boys doing the same and opposite them, while they throw tennis balls to each other while they chat and sing songs as a way of courting one another - speed dating Hmong style! AND if they decide to take a wife, the young suitor 'kidnaps' his chosen bride and keeps her at his parent's home while he goes to negotiate the dowry.
The main reason for visiting Phonsavan and braving the very long and winding road (the locals really struggle with car sickness!) to reach it is to see the Plain of Jars, a mysterious collection of huge stone jars spread across the local plains and hillsides. The jars are dated at around 2500 years old and there are two theories as to their origin - the Lao theory is that there was a very powerful tribe that won a battle against their local enemies and the jars are basically what's left over from the huge party that ensued and were used to make rice whisky; while the western theory, researched by a French archeologist in the 1930s is that the jars are actually funereal urns however the bones found by the archeologist at that time were lost and never found again particularly after the US significantly carpet bombed the region during the late 1960s and early 1970s (in fact, a ridiculous number of unexploded ordinances remain in the regions and hundreds of Laotians, including children, die each year from trying to recover these unexploded bombs).
We took a tour to visiting three of the main sites - the first was a plain with more than 300 stone urns, some more than 2m high; the second on two small hill tops overlooking lush valleys; and the third was a small cluster of large jars on the other side of some rice paddies. We also dropped in on a rice whisky home brewery where Grandma rolled out her best drop but as you can see from the pic, Libs was not impressed!
Phonsavan was also our first taste of cold weather for some time so we had to unfortunately drag out our winter clothes and wrap up warm for the freezing nights. We don't know how we are going to cope in the UK in December! Best not to think about it.
Mr and Mrs T xx