After my riding lesson yesterday, Tyler took the helm, and we kicked it down all the way to the large-ish town of Phonsavan, which is famous for its Plain of Jars. If the description in our guidebook's list of "things not to miss" is right, the attraction is exactly what it sounds like: a grassy plain full of old stone jars. When we arrived after a day of riding, none of us were feeling particularly inclined to go.
Lao stories and legends claim that there was a race of giants who once inhabited the area. Local legend tells of an ancient king called Khun Cheung, who fought a long, victorious battle against his enemy. He supposedly created the jars to brew and store huge amounts of lao lao rice wine to celebrate his victory…
Another explanation for the jars' use is for collecting monsoon rainwater for the caravan travellers along their journey in a time where rain may have been only seasonal and water not readily available on the easiest foot traveled path. Rainwater could then be boiled, even if stagnant, to become potable again, a practice long understood in Eastern Eurasia.Wikipedia, Plain of Jars
Waking early this morning, Tyler and I decide we ought to see the jars before we leave town; boring or not, we'll probably never have a chance to see them again. It is a quick ten kilometer trip into the countryside, which we enjoy thanks to a brilliant blue skies and a cool wind in our faces. When we get there, we meet a pretty kitty who seems to be enjoying herself in the sun.
We walk down a dusty path to the historical site, and sure enough, there it is: a plain of old stone jars scattered in a field of brown scrubby grass. It's sort of cool, well worth the fifty cents we paid to see it, anyway.
After about forty five seconds of wandering around under the hot, beating sun saying things like "Well dang, look at that big old jar", we're satisfied with the visit. We take a token "Tyler squatting in a jar" shot, then make our way towards the parking lot.
On the way, we're passed by a sweltering group of tourists who have purchased a day-long guided tour for all three of the region's jar sites. We feel a bit sorry for them, listening briefly while their guide speculates on the purpose of the urns. But, maybe they don't need our pity; maybe they are keen jar enthusiasts, truly able to appreciate their subtle differences, and the mystery of their existence. We shall never know.
As for us, when we've seen one jar, we've seen 'em all. Having fulfilled our touristy duty, we head home again. Now we can check that off our list!