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Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

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Tokyo, Japan
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Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

I was traveling alone during the beginning of rainy season, so arranged for a tour guide to pick me up and do a private tour of 3 jar sites and the old city of Xieng Khouang. His initial price was $150, and I negotiated this down to $100.

Would've been an ok price for a private tour for one person in a town with not that many options, but my tour guide was horrible. First, after picking me up from airport, he offered to show me where he worked. He mentioned that he worked for a Japanese UXO aid agency and thought he was taking me there but actually took me to his guesthouse. He knew that I already reserved a hotel but was still trying to sell me on getting a room at his guesthouse. Note, I stayed at Maly hotel (review just posted) and his guesthouse doesn't have great reviews. He said that Maly was very far from town (it was only 15 min walk) and said I should've made hotel reservations through him.

The next day, during the tour found that yes, he spoke English but enough English only for tasteless jokes (saying that the 30K people killed during March 2011 Japan earthquake were fish food - and if fish were hungry, maybe there will be another earthquake and tsunami) but not enough English to answer questions beyond what I've already read in guidebooks (e.g. didn't know if there were any monks maintaining the bombed temple in Xieng Khoang). Note, the dirt roads to most of the sites were in pretty bad condition because of rainy season - saw 1,2 tourists ride bikes, but it's definitely a motorcross bike situation that you have to be used to driving.

Tour was completed at 3pm, so spent the afternoon exploring the market. This may not be for everyone (especially if you're only used to western standards markets) but I certainly enjoyed seeing all the different vegetables, fruits, meats and fish.

Took a mini-van to Luang Prabang the next day. Three tips - 1) get to station early so you can get a good seat by the window. Views are beautiful. 2) drink motion sickness medicine - 2 people in my ride got sick from the swervy mountain roads and even other Lao drivers reacted to the bumpiness. 3) if you're a girl, where a long skirt as not all toilet breaks will be done where there are toilets.

In all, happy to have seen the Plain of Jars, go to MAG and learn about UXOs, but if I were to return, would arrange a tour from Luang Pravang or VIentiane (saw many many options for both group and private tours at reasonable prices). Read in a few forums after the fact that are UNESCO certified tour guides but didn't see any of them when searching online or walking around town.

Kurashiki, Japan
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for Kurashiki, Cambodia, Myanmar
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1. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

Sounds awful (I am from Japan and was of course here during the earhtquake, and that comment would have warranted a slap in the face from me!). I guess I was lucky enough to get a decent guide and driver when I was there (this was 7 years ago).

Kurashiki, Japan
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2. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

Your review isn't up yet, I wonder if that is the place with the surly owner. They also promised hot water (you pay extra for it) and that never happened. The temperatures can get below freezing in the winter months (and they were when I visited!) and I froze my a$$ off at that place, no hot water or heating at all...

Forster, Australia
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3. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

Hi all, we are just back from our trip incorporating Plain of Jars and the Maly Hotel - I would not suggest going to either unless you want to waste time. The manager and staff of the Maly are not interested in guests, the hotel itself in not too bad - just no atmosphere. Beware of touts at the airport trying to sell tours, starting at around $190, to see all 3 jar sites plus the remains (very little) of a tank and a waterfall that does not work in the dry season. If you must go there I suggest a tuk tuk from town to Site 1 should suffice to fill your needs of jars. We found the whole experience very ordinary and wish we had used the time spent getting and staying there, elsewhere. We also found the use of rifles by guests, trying to shoot ducks on the pond, at the bar/restaurant opposite the Maly a little disconcerting. It was obvious they had little idea of using a rifle and mixed with alcohol - not a good combination.

Greg

Vientiane, Laos
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4. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

18 months ago 4 of us got a full day tour round all 3 jar sites, plus sights in M. Khoun area for $50 - an AC minibus just for the 4 of us. The quotes of $150-190 are ridiculous - looks like the number of sharks in Phonsavanh are increasing.

Kurashiki, Japan
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5. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

That IS ridiculous. :-(

Vientiane
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6. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

"I would not suggest going to either"

Some people are just not interested in History and culture. Each to his own. For everyone I know the POJ is well worth a trip.

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7. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

There's no need to spend that much $ in Phonsavan, unless you simply want to throw it out the window.

You can stay in a nice hotel in town for $10/night and rent a motorbike for 2 people for less than $10/day. Driving around is easy and gives you maximum flexibility to visit whatever sites you want.

Here's our full trip report of the area: erohisms.com/mysterious-jars-and-secret-wars…

We spent about $30/day for two people, and that's with a lot of beers. If you'd like to spend more, I suggest you donate to the MAG office and help clear Laos of the bombs the US dropped during the Secret War: http://www.maginternational.org/laopdr

Kurashiki, Japan
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8. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

Hmmmm, I always shudder when I hear people recommending renting motorbikes in developing countries. The most horrific accident I'd seen in my life was in fact in Phonsavan, a young man ended up having a motorbike accident and ended up with his brains on the road. Yes, I saw that!

The people I met that week I was there said they saw 3 accidents and myself 2, so that was 5 in as many days. On the flight form Phonsavan to Vienatiane, I saw a very very bloody and bandaged person, hooked up to an IV, on the plane, in the back. PLEASE think about other options, you are MUCH safer in a van and it isn't all that expensive if you know how to bargain. (and most insurance isn't going to cover motorbike injuries!)

Forster, Australia
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9. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

Maneki & Rob & Lina, we looked into renting bikes in a number of locations including Phonsavan and Vang Vieng. We opted not to be involved when finding out that basic insurance is not available in a lot of locations. Most travel insurance will cover you in the event of an accident with a reputable vehicle hirer, but not if you have a back yard agreement with someone less reputable or carrying their own insurance. As far as Phonsovan goes though, the MAG display/office and Bamboozle restaurant were the highlights, apart from a late celebration of New Year at a hotel on the way into town from the Maly Hotel went. We found the jars display very ordinary and not worth while for the effort to get there.

Greg

Vientiane
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10. Re: Phonsavan report | Plain of Jars amazing, but nothing else

Not interested in History or culture I guess. Yoour comment that the jars are a "display" attests to that.