As I half expected things did work out the next day. With a little effort I found the other handful of Westerners that were in town that day, and the one guesthouse that was running a trip. The Plain of Jars is a fair spectacle, not least because of the lines of pegs that mark the path you have to stay to in order to keep away from the unexploded bombs! They are still clearing the area, 30 years or more after the mines and bombs were laid, and each day they go out they find an average of two pieces. The Jars are these huge sandstone vessels created up to 4,000 years ago and nobody knows why. The largest weighs 6 tons. We also got taken to a yard where all the collected artillery and plane parts etc. are piled up just like a car scrap yard, with a team of people sifting through everything trying to defuse anything that needs defusing before reclaiming the metals. Finally we went to a village which has a lot of buildings constructed partly from cluster bomb shells and so on, one place has a soup ladle made from the fuselage of an American bomber plane.
That night some of us were having dinner and watched a pick up truck glide gently into a ditch right outside the restaurant. Luckily for me my food just arrived then, but the others went out and spent a good 15 minutes trying to push him out. It was being driven by a 16 year old boy, who was pissed as a fart, as soon as they got him out he rolled backwards, very slowly for 20 yards before reversing into another ditch. Fortunately he got himself out of that one and moved on, but I doubt how far he got!
Today I’ve headed over to Luang Prabang, a colonial style town with a lot to see and do. The journey here was hell to say the least, first our bus stops at some kind of checkpoint for about an hour, we’ve no idea why. Then after hours of winding mountains and ascents and descents up to 2000 metres or so, we get to within 25 Km of the destination when a tyre blows. The driver jacks up the bus and removes the 6 nuts holding the wheel on (from the 8 that there should have been!) and gets down the spare. The spare had no tread whatsoever and an 8-inch gash in the sidewall, right through to the innertube, but somehow it stayed intact long enough to get us there.
Riding in a tuk tuk from the bus station into town though, things took a grim turn for the worse. I almost wasn’t going to blog this, but well it happened so… We stop behind some stationary vehicles, and looking ahead see a body in the road with the brain just beside it, only about 10 yards in front of us behind about 3 vehicles, so it must have happened within a minute of us getting there. About another minute later some people drag the body from the road out of the way, without waiting for the police or anything of course, and we carry on. Our tuk tuk wheel (as did all the vehicles I think) goes straight over the brain which they left in the road, for sure one of the most disgusting things I’ve ever witnessed in my life. Many of the locals standing at the scene were laughing and joking which was quite remarkable, but I think they just don’t value life all that much out here. Our driver told us he’d been on a motorbike and we think hit a tuk tuk or car.
Tomorrow morning I’ll probably push straight on up north to Nong Khiaw and spend two or three days before heading back to Luang Prabang to see it properly before flying to Thailand.
Posted from Phonsavan, Xiangkhouang, Laos.