A vast green plateau 270 mi/435 km northeast of Vientiane, the Plain of Jars is named after the hundreds of huge, ancient carved stone vessels that are scattered among the plateau's rolling hills and rice paddies. The largest jar is 10 ft/3 m tall and weighs more than a ton. Little is known of the origin and purpose of these jars. Local legend says they were made to store rice wine following a great victory over an oppressive tyrant, but most archaeologists believe they were grave markers. Still, no full-scale excavation of jar sites has ever been attempted, so these stone megaliths remain enigmatic. The area was heavily bombed by the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, with unexploded ordnance still a dangerous problem for villagers.
However, most tourist areas have been deemed safe by international agencies. After the war, the provincial capital moved from bombed-out Xieng Khouang to nearby Phonsavanh. Day trips could include a visit to the Xieng Khouang Pagoda, which is very much worth seeing. Phonsavanh has several small hotels and guesthouses for visitors, with tour operators organizing daily trips to jar sites and nearby Hmong villages.
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