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Our world Travel On 10th May 2007 I fled the UK on a journey around the world with a long list of places to go. Got as far as the Philippines where I met my wife. We got married on 11th May 2010 and are now sharing the experiences of travelling the world together

Plain of Jars (Ponsavan)

LAOS | Monday, 18 February 2008 | Views [1783]

Sun 17th Feb - We had booked a tour of the 3 sites of the plain of Jars this morning, joined by three other people.

The plain of jars is a collection of sites with three of the main groups being within 25 km of Ponsavan. The purpose of the jars is a mystery although many theories exist. They are all made from sandsone ad stand upto 2.5m in height. The main theory is that they were used as stone coffins for burial purposes. Out of the many hundreds of jars spread across the sites, only one has been found to have markings on it to serve as any clue. The main problem is that aerial photography has indicated that many more sites exist along a route, but the presence of UXOs (UneXploded Ordinance) makes it difficult to escavate until they have been cleared.

Whilst on the subject, here's some figures that are worth thinking about......

Between 1964 and 1973, the USA conducted one of the largest aerial bombardments in history to rid the country of the north vietnamese invaders. Flying 580,344 missions over Laos, they dropped 2 million tonnes of bombs at the cost of $2.2million per day! About 30% failed to detonate. One of the most bombed areas was eastern Laos where I am now. The british Mines Advisory Group (MAG) began clearance in 1994 supplemented by other agencies and reckon it will make 100 years to make the country safe! Makes you think doesn't it?

Another stop today was at a Lào-láo whiskey distillery. Sticky rice is placed in a drum along with yeast and left for 4 or 5 days after which it is steamed and the resultant liquid condensed to form the alcohol, which has an alcohol content of about 45%.....5 glasses of the stuff later...and the sun was now out in full attack....not good for the head!

Another brief stop was to see an abandoned russian tank. The caterpillar tracks have now gone. What is amazing is the proliferation of war material that forms part of everyday life here. Entrances to houses with cluster bomb missile casings as gate posts, parts of boms and tanks used as household objects......

At 5:30pm daily, the MAG museum runs a documenary video called 'bombies', about reality in Laos which follows the struggle to rid the country of the legacy of war. Mankinds propensity to develop methods of distruction and death is sickening. Cluster bombs are large missiles that shortly after launch, split open to release many smaller tennis ball sized 'bombies'. Each of these containes up to 300 ball bearings. The bombie is in two halfs. When launched, the design of the bombie casing has flutes that impart a spin in one half that is used to ignite the inernal fuse. On explosion the contents are blown outwards to be impailed in whatever is in its path. The problem is that only 30% maximum of these exploded, mainly due to wrong iming of the launch and also due to the fact it was wet season and most landed is soft ground. Many cluster bombs didn't even open and the whole missile buried itself unexploded in the ground. 2 million tonnes of these were dropped! The nett effect of this 'carpet bombing' was to create a legacy of continuous danger for the laos people with vast areas inaccessable for farming and ongoing deaths and injuries as people accidently tread on buried bombs.

Children find objects they think are innocent play objects, for them to explode and kill them 'if they are lucky', or leave them with the most horrific of disfigurements for the rest of their lives.

The Mines Advisory Group (MAG) is part of the ongoing program to clear he UXOs to not only make their lives safer, but also to free up more land for farming. They also have an ongoing education program in schools to enable children to recognise the bombies and understand the dangers they face.

Laos people are enlisted on training programs to become part of the clearance teams. The film was extremely sad and moving and you couldn't help but cry at the plight of these people.

Mon 18th Feb - Moving on to Vang Vieng today and Victoria and I had booked space on a minivan last night. Worked out the same price as a public bus. More details later......

Tags: Sightseeing


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