Zoe and Ed's Travels
Gratings from Phonsavan! We feel that we ought to explain our fantastical photograph for this postcard (which is entitled "Plain of Cheese"). Incidentally those who are practised with Photoshop will notice how badly done it all is, but there's only so much you can do with MSPaint. Anyway, returning to the main theme for a moment, whilst in Vientiane we discovered a fantastic French restaurant where we feasted on steak and cheese, all washed down with some red wine. It was so good that we went back the following night. The cheese platter (modestly priced at US$8) contained samples of six French cheeses which were all excellent, particularly as (a) we haven't had French cheese in a long while, and (b) we like our cheese! So we have added the cheese in homage (or should that be fromage?) to the delicious dish. Unfortunately, Phonsavan, where we are now, is not similarly equipped with French restaurants (there was quite a selection to choose from in Vientiane: who said colonialism never did any good?) although it does have a passable Indian, which will have to do for now. It also has the Plain of Jars, which, in case you haven't guessed, is the other item featuring in the picture on this postcard. In fact the Plain of Jars consists of three large and several smaller sites around Phonsavan where large stone jars have been found essentially lying around, mostly on hillsides. The jars are reckoned to date from between 2000BC and 500BC, and were probably associated with human burial, but no-one is quite sure. The jars are quite impressive and, contrary to the impression given in the photograph, are somewhat larger than a camembert and are mostly about 4 feet tall, with the largest around 7 feet. We joined a 'tour' today to go and see the three main sites (as well as the remains of a Russian tank, which was really quite unimpressive). As we're not a fan of overly guided tours (particularly those given by people who don't really speak English) we did well, as our guide said almost nothing throughout the whole day. I think we achieved this by going with the cheap company: the guy from the tour company associated with our guesthouse admitted that his tour was more expensive but kept insisting that it was better quality, which presumably would have meant more talking. It presumably would also have meant that the van wouldn't have broken down and taken the best part of an hour to fix, but you can't have everything. We arrived in Phonsavan two days ago on the bus from Vientiane. The bus journey took 9 and a half hours, which is quite a long time, especially when there are Thai pop videos playing for the whole journey. The good news was that, because we'd been experiencing temperatures in excess of 40 degrees in Vientiane, we'd paid the extra to go on the air-conditioned bus. The bad news was that they decided not to turn it on for most of the journey, presumably as part of some cost-cutting exercise. Still we got here in one piece, and it's much cooler up here. We also had a torrential downpour and a thunderstorm at around 3am this morning (it was still raining when we got up) and I did wonder for a while if the roof of our US$2 a night room would stand up to it, but we were OK. (There are several visible holes in the walls, so it was not a foregone conclusion.) Tomorrow we are taking the bus to Luang Prabang, which is something between an 8 and 10 hour journey, depending on who you believe. This time the bus has definitely not got air-conditioning (unless they hurriedly fit some as part of a spending spree, presumably), so we can't be disapponted; only hot.