The clown of jars
The closest jar site is located about 3km out of town my Rough Guide nicely put it. I’ve been walking for about 40 minutes and I’m not sure if I’ve even out of the city yet – it seemed like such a small place, but appearances lie, obviously. The sun is getting warmer as well, my camera and clown-makeup laden backpack makes my top stick wetly to the skin. An hour ago the temperature was almost cool, perfect for a little walk, and 3-5km didn’t seem too daunting, but that was an hour, and probably almost five kilometers ago. But I continue on, and the roadside gets gradually less populated.
People in passing cars, motorbikes and trucks eye me strangely or laugh – crazy farang, only a farang would think of walking along the dusty road in this heat – I smile, and they smile back. I get loads of Sabai dees, smiles and waves from kids, women and men along the road. A group of kids yell good evening after me, I say Sabai dee back, they giggle. The road continues on, I walk, time passes and I see no sign of any jars. When I’m starting to wonder if I’m even on the right track – I do have a horrible sense of direction, after all – two Japanese girls bike past me, they are probably heading to the same place, there’s not much else of interest around Phonsavan, especially not that’s reachable by bike.
After a little while I reach one of those little stones set along roads all over South-East Asia, it says Plain of jars, 2km, I’m getting there. After what seems like ages, and definitely more than 2 km, I’m still not there. I’m on a side road with cute small country houses set along it. Tons of kids hang along the garden fences, all smiling, laughing, greeting. At last I reach a sign that says it’s only 500 meters left, and it doesn’t lie, I’m there in almost no time, finally. The walk might have ended up being a lot longer than I intended, but I don’t regret it at all.
The moment I enter the plains I’m surprised of how small the area is. I’m not sure what I expected, but a part of me did expect something a bit more grandiose than this, I can see how some people might get slightly disappointed. But I don’t need it to be big and grandiose, as long as I find a suiting spot for my photo-shoot I’m happy, and soon I do. It’s a bit away from the entrance, most people don’t venture around there and I have it almost to myself. I paint my face, put my camera on my fancy little Gorillapod and start shooting. I run back and forth between the camera and the scene, with a self-timer of ten seconds. I jump out and in, up and down big stone jars. People walking by either laugh or frown at me. Some Lao teenagers (it seems to be mainly Asians coming here) want their picture taken with me with all kind of different poses, the peace sign, heart frame – I learn to count to three. A Japanese guy wants a picture while I’m in action, doing weird stuff. And suddenly I hear someone speaking Norwegian, here of all places. They’re heading towards the stone jar I’m currently doing acrobatics on, jumping up and in, trying to throw my head and hair back at the exact right moment. Somehow I managed to choose the one jar that’s different from all other hundreds of jars at the plain, it has a simple outline of a person engraved into it. They are missionaries living in Bangkok, working on aid-projects in Laos. I manage to hitch a ride with them back into town, no more walking today!
(Stay between the white dots: Laos is one of the most heavily bombed countries in the world compared to population, and around the country you still have a lot of unexploded ordnances. The biggest of the plain sites are cleared, but the around the area make sure to stay on the paths).