Unlike most of the other towns we have visited Phonsavan has not reached a level of friendliness to it’s tourists. The locals are alright but the tour operators are arseholes. There are some great things to do here but it is overshadowed by a darker side.
There are quite a few aid agencies based here with many expat personnell and we got talking to them about some of the local issues. It seems Laos is the most bombed country in the world (per capita) and around 30% of all the stuff dropped didn’t detonate. This is collectively known as UXO and there are many signs advising tourists to keep to marked safety areas when moving around the countryside. At 1st I thought it quite humorous that the locals had taken to turning the UXO into everything from furniture, decorative art & even BBQs….I assumed the stuff had all been diffused and made safe by the various agencies. However, in my conversation wth staff they informed me that very little of the displays around town had in fact been diffused and it is only a matterof time before there is a major accident. As it is there were around 350 lives
lost or maimed in Laos last year.
The first day involved a tour to the ‘Plain of Jars’, this is Asia’s answer to Stonehenge. Thousands of huge sandstone jars scattered over many thousands of hectares. Many theories have evolved for the reason they were made but no-one knows for sure.
Second day was a little more adventurous in that we decided to visit the old provincial capital of Moung Khoun about 30km away. The tour operators wanted to rip us off so we decided to make our own way there. 1st local tuk tuk them we caught the local “bus” just a larger version of a tuk tuk. We were given the royal treatment and the driver sat us with him rather than the locals! Total cost about 1/10th of what the rip off merchants wanted to charge us.
On arrival we were greeted by a charming 15 year old local boy who offerred to show us the sites of the old capitol of the Xieng Khouang Province. Obviously there were ulterior motives but it was nice to have a local guide. We then had another friend tag along. We took them to lunch which cost us
about AU$3 for the 2 of them – well worthwhile
Next day on to the local markets to taste some of the local delicacies…..NOT
You can see from the pics why we didnt sample the food!! I wasnt even brave enough – cooked witchetty grubs are my limit!! (not live ones)