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Phonsavan and the Plain of Jars

Updated: Aug 4, 2020

Phonsavan is the capital of Xieng Khouang Province in Laos and considered the gateway to the Plain of Jars.

Due to the strategic importance during the Laotian Civil War, Xieng Khouang was heavily bombed to either neutralise Pathet Laos force strongholds and their Vietnamese ally strongholds in the area or to drop unused ordinance when returning from missions in Vietnam.

The remnants of this can still be seen as many people have utilised bomb casings for a variety of uses that can be seen around Phonsavan and surrounding areas.

Craters Cafe, Phonsavan

Restaurants use spoons made from casings from unexploded ordinance that have been made safe and destroyed by Mines Advisory Group (MAG) and are available to purchase from many places, bringing an unexpected income from the remnants of war.

During 1964 – 1969, the Plains were heavily bombed by the USAF. Dropping more bombs in Laos - mainly the Plain of Jars – than they did in WWII, they turned Laos into the most bombed country in world history.

An estimated 80 million of the 262 million anti personnel cluster bombs dropped remained unexploded, seriously impeding land use and endangering the population to this day.

The Plain of Jars are over several areas with over 90 sites being identified in the province. Jars vary in size and number from site to site with regional differences in design and some sites have up to 400 jars.

Explanations for the jars vary from legends of giants storing alcohol, burial rites or being used to collect monsoon water.

With the work of MAG and UNESCO, funded by the New Zealand government (NZAID), seven sites have been made safe for visitors and in 2019 were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

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