Northwest of Luang Nam Ta, on the broad river plains of the Nam La (River) lies the small town of Muang Sing. Villages dot the countryside and cultures are still mostly intact. It’s worth taking a motorbike into the countryside, passing rice fields as mountains give accent to the distant views. The villages are a great place to get to know the Laotian people. The following photographs were made around Muang Sing and Luang Nam Ta.
I had read something in the Lonely Planet about the mysterious plain of jars and I had to make time for it. It’s interesting how when you travel you might not of heard of many places, but then you hear a conversation about a place, or a traveler who drops the name on a bus, and suddenly it becomes the most important place in the world to see. You realize that the more you travel, the more there is to see in this world.
I remember two things about Phonsavan, the town near the Plain of Jars. It was remarkably cold that day and there’s an NGO called MAG International, a de-mining group that educates visitors about the dangers of unexploded ordinance in Laotian villages. As an American it could be a little tough to take, learning just how many bombs we dropped over Laos during the Vietnam War era. MAG works to remove land mines and unexploded ordinance, helping the people in those communities live more safely.
The plain of jars near Phonsavan, Laos in which hundreds of jars are spread across the northern region remains a mystery. Anthropologists and archeologists have theorized that the jars may have been used as funeral urns or perhaps storage for food. 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. No matter what the true story, the mysterious plain of jars make for an interesting visit.
After Phonsavan it was time to visit the famed Vang Vieng. Famed perhaps for all the wrong reasons. It’s a town mostly full of young, 20-something Australians who sit in cafes and watch Friends episodes in repeating loops all day. There must be a drug that makes people do that.
The countryside, however, is quite beautiful. There are limestone cliffs that line the lovely Nam Song (Song River). Due to it’s reputation for getting quite rowdy with the above mentioned young, me and few friends took to the river by inter tube in the early morning. We drifted lazily by limestone formations and it turned out to be another memorable part of my trip to Laos. I spent the rest of the day just taking in scenes on the river.
It was then time to take in the capital of Vientiane. Famous for the national monument Pha That Luang and the temple Wat Si Saket, it’s also worth taking a motorbike along the dirt roads leading from the city along the Mekong River.
When I travel, I want to see every road in the country. I’m continually grieved that I can’t go here or there. But alas, choices must be made. So from Vientiane it was another long bus ride, this time all the way south to the Bolaven plateau. That’s coffee growing country. I was to meet up with another traveler and cross the plateau by motorbike. Due to our pace of exploration we wouldn’t make it back to town one night and had to stop by a family home and ask for a place to stay. Those often prove to be the best times in the country as you get to experience the real Laos. There were occasional sudden downpours, peaceful evenings along rivers, and plenty of good coffee. Photos from that portion of the trip follow.
And then it was time to visit the southernmost part of Laos, Don Det and the Ten Thousand Islands. Here the Mekong flows lazily by and on into Cambodia. It’s the last stop before crossing the border by land. It was worth a couple of days just hanging out before traveling to a new land.
To view the entire gallery visit nomadruss.comFollow @nomadruss