MEKONG RIVER LAOS AND WAT PHU

MEKONG RIVER

In far northern Laos, the Mekong River lies in a deep valley shared with Myanmar. Further south it curves eastward and then southward in a great bend which forms the border with Thailand. Flood plains of varying width have formed along the Mekong and its tributaries. These lowlands are the most fertile areas in Laos. The section between Vientiane and Savannakhet are navigable by vessels up to 200 tons. Navigation on other sections is hampered by rapids, falls and shallows. The Mekong River’s middle section is navigable year round for 550 kilometers between Heuan Hin (north of the Khemmarat Rapids in Savannakhet) and Kok Phong, Luang Prabang Province. As better roads are built in Laos the Mekong River has become less vital for a transportation.

The Mekong River is one of the world's great rivers. Originating in Tibet, not far from the source of the Yangtze River, it tumbles down through the Himalayas and southern China into Southeast Asia and flows along the borders of Laos, Burma and Thailand through the heart of the Golden Triangle into Cambodia, where it flows in one direction in the wet season and the opposite direction in the dry season. It finally empties into the South China Sea at the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. Its source in Tibet as not discovered until 1994.

The Mekong River goes by many names. It is known as Lancang Jiang (Turbulent River) in China, the Mae Nam Khing in Thailand, Myanmar and Laos, Tonle Than (Great Waters) in Cambodia and Cuu Long (Nine Dragons) in Vietnam. It is also known as River of Stone, Dragon Running River, Mother River Khong, and Big Water.

The Mekong is the longest river in Southeast Asia, the 12th longest in the world and the 10th largest in terns of volume. With about half of its length in China, it flows for 4,620 kilometers (2,870 miles) and provides food and water for 60 million people and disgorges 475 billion cubic meters of water each year into the South China Sea.

The Mekong River is one of the wildest rivers in he world and is surprisingly undeveloped for such a large river. There are no large cities or industrial zones along its banks. It is not dammed. Until 1994 there were note even bridges across the lower stretches of it. For the most part the it is brown and muddy and still wild and free. The Upper Mekong features turbulent rapids, steep gorges and long section with no people. Often the only way to cross it is on cables strung between cliffs. The Lower Mekong River is calmer and more placid and incredibly wide in some places.

Around 60 million people depend on the river and its tributaries for food, transport and many other aspects of their daily lives.China has placed three dams across the upper reaches of the Mekong and more are planned. But otherwise the mainstream flows free.

A good book on the river is Mekong by Edward AA. Gargan (Knopf, 2002) written by a former correspondent for The Times. Great Mekong Subregion Atlas of the Environment by the Asian Development Bank and United Nations Environmental Programme is well written and contains excellent photographs, charts and maps.

ROUTE OF THE MEKONG RIVER

The Mekong River is 4,220 kilometers long and is one of the 12 great rivers of the world. From its source in the Tibetan plateau, it flows through the Tibet and Yunnan regions of China, forms the boundary between Laos and Burma as well as between Laos and Thailand, divides into two branches--the Song Han Giang and Song Tien Giang--below Phnom Penh, and continues through Cambodia and the Mekong basin before draining into the South China Sea through nine mouths or cuu long (nine dragons).

The river is heavily silted and is navigable by seagoing craft of shallow draft as far as Kompong Cham in Cambodia. A tributary entering the river at Phnom Penh drains the Tonle Sap, a shallow fresh- water lake that acts as a natural reservoir to stabilize the flow of water through the lower Mekong. When the river is in flood stage, its silted delta outlets are unable to carry off the high volume of water. Floodwaters back up into the Tonle Sap, causing the lake to inundate as much as 10,000 square kilometers. As the flood subsides, the flow of water reverses and proceeds from the lake to the sea. The effect is to reduce significantly the danger of devastating floods in the Mekong Delta, where the river floods the surrounding fields each year to a level of one to two meters. *

The Mekong River flows through a narrow, 200-kilometer-long gorge in southern China and along the Myanmar-Laos. From the tripoint of China, Burma (Myanmar) and Laos the river flows southwest and forms the border of Burma and Laos for about 100 kilometres (62 miles) until it arrives at the tripoint of Burma, Laos, and Thailand. This is also the point of confluence between the Ruak River (which follows the Thai-Burma border) and the Mekong. The area of this tripoint is sometimes termed the Golden Triangle, although the term also refers to the much larger area of those three countries that is notorious as a drug producing region.

As one travels south on the Mekong its become easier to navigate and higher numbers of greater varieties of boats appear. From the Golden Triangle tripoint, the Mekong turns southeast to briefly form the border of Laos with Thailand. It then turns east into the interior of Laos, flowing first east and then south for some 400 kilometres (250 mi) before meeting the border with Thailand again. Once more, it defines the Laos-Thailand border for some 850 kilometres (530 mi) as it flows first east, passing in front of the capital of Laos, Vientiane, then turns south. A second time, the river leaves the border and flows east into Laos soon passing the city of Pakse. Thereafter, it turns and runs more or less directly south, crossing into Cambodia. At Khone Falls the river cascardes over rocks and separates into several branches, divided by forested islands, before it enters Cambodia.

The Mekong River flows through the east-central portion of Cambodia. Over much of its course it occupies an elevated bed paralleled by natural levees. Beyond the levees are huge depressions known as beng . The Mekong River is navigable from the sea by small ocean-going vessels as far as Phnom Penh. Shallow draft boats are necessary to further upstream. The northern Mekong River area of Cambodia is fairly undeveloped. There are some stretches where the villages are more than 30 kilometers miles apart. River traffic is light. The main fishing season is after the rainy season ends in September and the fish begin migrating northward. Villages use scoop nets to gather small, silvery fish.

MEKONG RIVER BASIN

The Mekong basin cover an area the size of France and Germany. More than 80 percent of the people that live in the Mekong River basis in rely on the river for agriculture or fishing. More than 41 percent of the land in the heavily populated Lower Mekong basin is used for agriculture, which accounts for 90 percent of all water use. In the forested uplands of the region, with a prime teak tree worth $20,000 or more, it is no surprise that illegal logging is a problem.

Eleanor J. Sterling and Merry D. Camhi wrote in Natural History magazine, The Mekong’s name translates from Lao as “mother of the waters.” It’s no wonder: the river snakes some 3,000 miles from its headwaters on the Tibetan Plateau to its outlet through the Mekong River Delta into the South China Sea. It and the uncountable “feeder” rivers and streams in Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam make up the 300,000-square-mile Mekong River Basin. [Source: Eleanor J. Sterling and Merry D. Camhi, Natural History magazine, December 2007]

The five Southeast Asian countries—Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos—and one Chinese province—Yunnan—that embrace the Mekong basin are home to about 270 million people, roughly the population of the United States, but it lies on land a forth of the size of the U.S. The vast majority of the people that live on the region depend on the river either directly or indirectly.

Kevin Short wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun,“A watershed ecosystem, of course, pays no attention to national boundaries. Deforestation high in the uplands, for example , can impact water quality and fish resources far downstream. Recognizing they share a common limited resource base and therefore a common future, the concerned nations and province have fored the Greater Mekong Subregional Plan, a coordinated effort to encourage sustainable resource utilization while preserving biological and cultural diversity throughout the watershed.” [Source: Kevin Short, Daily Yomiuri, February 2005]

GEOGRAPHY OF SOUTHEAST ASIA

Much of what is considered Southeast Asia sits on a peninsula that juts out from below China. Its forest have traditionally been the source of teak and sandalwood and its mines have traditionally been sources of rubies and sapphires. Today it produces much of the world’s rubber, palm oil, coffee, tea and rice.

Six important rivers flow through the region, including the Irrawaddy in Myanmar; the Mekong in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam; and the Red River in Vietnam. Many Southeast Asians live along the water, Floating markets, coastal kampong villages and houses on stilts are all fixture of the region.

Southeast Asia lies at the convergence pint of three continental plates: the Eurasian Plate. the Indo-Australia Plate and the Philippine Sea Plate. Much of Southeast Asia was created when frgm,enst broke off of the supercontinent Gondwanaland 400 million years ago and were pushed dup against the Asian continent 200 million years ago. When the Indian subcontinent began colliding with Asia about 55 million years ago and pushing up the Himalayas it also pushed mountain ranges in Southeast Asia.

While the Indian subcontinent was pushing against Asia, climate changes caused sea levels to rise and fall creating land bridges the appeared when the water was low and disappeared when it rose. These changes shaped the landscape along eth costs and played a big part in how animals and plant were dispersed and new species were created.

During the last set of Ice Ages main of the islands in Southeast Asia were connected to the mainland by land bridges.

HISTORY OF THE MEKONG

It is believed that Marco Polo may have set eyes on the Mekong River in the 13th century. The Portuguese Dominican missionaries Father Gaspar da Cruz was the first European to describe traveling on the Mekong River. He spent 1555 to 1557 in Cambodia. The Dutch explorer Gerrot van Wuystoof wrote about it in 1641

The French had ideas of using the Mekong to navigate through Southeast Asia into China but these dreams were dashed when an expedition led by Francis Garnier in the 1860s discovered a major obstacle, Khone Falls, in southern Laos. He suggested blasting a canal next to the canal but a short railroad was built instead but the effort led to only minimal increases of commerce on the river.

In World War II, a number of battles were fought in the proximity of the Mekong in China. The Gong Guo Bridge near Baoshan, Myanmar, built in the 1930s, was a key link to the Burma Road.

KHONE FALLS AND LIMITS OF THE MEKONG RIVER AS A TRANSPORT ROUTE

Khone Falls (on the Mekong River along the Laos-Cambodian border) is the widest waterfall in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. The series of rapids and falls are 6.7 miles wide, with a drop of 70 feet. The falls are most impressive at the end of the rainy season when the flow is 1.5 million cubic meters per second. This is more than any other fall in the world, and twice as much as Niagra Falls.

Known properly as Khônephapheng Falls, Khone is six mile chain of cataracts. There are two main cascades: Phapheng and Somphamit Falls and several smaller sets of rapids. In some places some flimsy bamboo platforms have been set up for fishermen to use. Don’t try to use them yourself. The magic manikhot tree that sits in the middle of the falls is said to have never been touched by human hands. The river cruise to the falls passes by numerous islands and temples with saffron-robed monks.

The falls are one of the reasons why the Mekong River was one of the last rivers to be explored and developed. Fish amazingly can make their way up the falls but boats can’t. It dashed the hopes of French hoping to use the Mekong River as a transportation link to China.

The French built a 14-kilometers railway so that goods could be moved across two islands to bypass the falls. Cargo at one end of the railway was hoisted from boats and placed on railcars and unloaded back onto to boats at the other end of the line. Sometimes entire boats were lifted and put on railway cars The railroad operated until the end of World War II and was the only railroad built in Laos. After the war the rails were carried away by villagers. All that remains really are two piers, a bridge between the two islands, remains of sleepers and gravel and a rusting steam locomotive. On Khone Island you can hike on part of the old railway bed.

GREATER MEKONG SUB-REGION (GMS)

Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS) is comprised of five six countries (Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia) and one Chinese province (Yunnan) that share the Mekong River. Cooperation in the Greater Mekong subregion, led by the Asian Development Bank, began in the 1990s and has helped unite an area that for a long time was divided by longstanding conflicts. In 2005, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia signed an agreement to standardize and accelerate border crossings to facilitate trade. The agreement shortened border crossing formalities that previously took three hours to a day to just 30 minutes for trucks and five minutes for passenger cars.

Takashi Shiraishi wrote in the Yomiuri Shimbun: “Thailand is the hub of the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS). All three GMS economic corridors--the North-South Corridor between Kunming, Yunnan Province, and Bangkok via Laos, the East-West Corridor from Vietnam to Thailand via Laos and Cambodia, and the Southern Corridor--lead to Thailand. Further infrastructure development in Bangkok, growth of industrial clusters in the areas around the Thai capital and trade promotion under the framework of free trade agreements, among other policies, will greatly contribute to Thailand's economy once the GMS successfully emerges as an integrated regional market. [Source: Takashi Shiraishi, Yomiuri Shimbun, October 10, 2011]

China has been helping GMS countries build expressways, high-speed railway lines and hydropower stations and improve power grids. These Chinese endeavors can be a big plus for Thailand, which wants the GMS developed as an attractive market. It makes sense for Thailand to enhance its partnership with China. China has been taking a "hub-and-spokes" approach to the GMS area. It regards the broad north-south linkage, stretching from China--Yunnan Province and the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region--to Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar as the "hub" of its GMS economic development. For the "spokes," China is radially extending its reach to various places that dot the region along the main linkage. For the GMS area to facilitate regional economic integration and growth, it is essential for all mainland Southeast Asian countries to be linked horizontally and strengthen their mutual economic relations.

FLOW OF THE MEKONG RIVER

Harmony Patricio, a conservation biologist and the conservation director at FISHBIO, told mongabay.com: “One unique thing about the Mekong is that it has the highest range of flows of any river on Earth. The difference in flows between the wet season and the dry season is immense. During the rainy season, the water levels rise and deposit a lot of nutrients and sediments along the banks. [Source: Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, April 23, 2013 |~|]

During spring melt and the monsoon season from May to October, the Mekong became a raging torrent, sometimes producing a flood wave that is 46 feet high. Annual floods often kill dozens of people. Floods in Cambodia and Vietnam in 2000, killed 500 people and wiped out herds, crops and orchards. At the end of the dry season in March, April and May the river level can drop as much as 40 feet in some places, exposing large rocks and sand bars, and making navigation even in small boats difficult.

MEKONG RIVER IN LAOS

The Lao PDR is criss-crossed with a myriad of rivers and streams. The largest is the Mekong River, flowing for 1,898 kilometers from the North to the South, with 919 kilometers of the river forming the major portion of the border with Thailand. It is estimated that some 60 percent of all the water entering the Mekong River system originates in Laos. These rivers and streams provide great potential for hydropower development with 51 percent of the power potential in the lower Mekong basin contained within Laos. Mekong River is navigable much of length but is not navigable between the sea and Laos because of Khone Falls in southern Laos. The Nam Ou, Na That and Nam Ngum are large tributaries of the Mekong River.

The Mekong River and its eastern tributaries drain all of Laos with the exception of Samneua Province in the northeast. The 1,600 kilometers of navigable water of the river that passes through Laos or along its border is the longest transportation and communication route in the country. But rapids in the far north and far south effectively cut Laos off from the sea and cross-border and international commercial possibilities.

Most of the western border of Laos is demarcated by the Mekong River, which is an important artery for transportation. The Khong falls at the southern end of the country prevent access to the sea, but cargo boats travel along the entire length of the Mekong in Laos during most of the year. Smaller power boats and pirogues provide an important means of transportation on many of the tributaries of the Mekong. The Mekong has thus not been an obstacle but a facilitator for communication, and the similarities between Laos and northeast Thai society--same people, same language--reflect the close contact that has existed across the river for centuries. Also, many Laotians living in the Mekong Valley have relatives and friends in Thailand. Prior to the twentieth century, Laotian kingdoms and principalities encompassed areas on both sides of the Mekong, and Thai control in the late nineteenth century extended to the left bank. Although the Mekong was established as a border by French colonial forces, travel from one side to the other has been significantly limited only since the establishment of the Lao People's Democratic Republic (LPDR, or Laos) in 1975. *

With an absense of railraods and a shortage of good roads the Mekong River is a vital transportation link in Laos. All of the country’s major cities and settlements are located on or near its banks. Flooding deposits rich top soil on its banks. The narrow flood plain is one of the main wet rice growing areas.

The Mekong River flows through a narrow, 200-kilometer-long gorge in southern China and along the Myanmar-Laos. From the tripoint of China, Burma (Myanmar) and Laos the river flows southwest and forms the border of Burma and Laos for about 100 kilometres (62 miles) until it arrives at the tripoint of Burma, Laos, and Thailand. This is also the point of confluence between the Ruak River (which follows the Thai-Burma border) and the Mekong. The area of this tripoint is sometimes termed the Golden Triangle, although the term also refers to the much larger area of those three countries that is notorious as a drug producing region.

As one travels south on the Mekong its become easier to navigate and higher numbers of greater varieties of boats appear. From the Golden Triangle tripoint, the Mekong turns southeast to briefly form the border of Laos with Thailand. It then turns east into the interior of Laos, flowing first east and then south for some 400 kilometres (250 mi) before meeting the border with Thailand again. Once more, it defines the Laos-Thailand border for some 850 kilometres (530 mi) as it flows first east, passing in front of the capital of Laos, Vientiane, then turns south. A second time, the river leaves the border and flows east into Laos soon passing the city of Pakse. Thereafter, it turns and runs more or less directly south, crossing into Cambodia. At Khone Falls the river cascardes over rocks and separates into several branches, divided by forested islands, before it enters Cambodia.

PEOPLE LIVING ON THE MEKONG RIVER

The Mekong River Basin plays a vital role of the many communities that live along it. Harmony Patricio, a conservation biologist and the conservation director at FISHBIO, told mongabay.com "The river means everything to the people living in the basin, especially in rural areas. It's their source of life. More than 60 million people depend on the fish for food, which typically accounts for more than half of their animal protein. There's not really a substitute for that. People also use the river for transportation, for their household water supply, and for growing rice and farming." [Source: Jeremy Hance, mongabay.com, April 23, 2013 |~|]

“In the dry season, the water level goes down and people in rural areas have this really rich soil where they plant riverside gardens, which are an important source of vegetables like beans and corn. So in the dry season, maybe they can't catch as many fish, but they have these riverside gardens that are really productive. The river also delivers huge amounts of sediment to the delta in Vietnam, which supports some of the world's highest rice production and the nutrients in the sediment create a marine plume that contributes to high fish abundance in the ocean off the coast of the delta. Scientists are just now starting to understand the role of this marine plume for fish production. |~|

“You also have many different people involved in fishing—men, women, and children—at all different scales. People will fish for just 20 minutes for subsistence, just enough to get dinner for their family that night. Then there are big commercial operations in the Tonle Sap that pull in huge hauls. Trying to measure and research the harvest at these different scales is really challenging. |~|

TRANSPORTATION ON THE MEKONG RIVER

The Mekong River and its tributaries provide crucial transportation links in Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Between Simao in Yunnan and Jinghong on Laotian border the river is navigable. The river runs for 786 kilometers between Simao and Luang Prabang in Laos.

Myanmar, Thailand, China and Laos has signed an agreement to open a navigation route along the upper reaches of the Mekong River. Under the agreement the four countries allowed commercial navigation across each other’s borders. There are plans to make an access route from southern China to the Indian Ocean via the Mekong River.

China is currently involved in dredging upper parts of the river to make them navigable. In the dry season, 150-tons can not navigate these sections. Dredging will remedy this. Dredging between Vientiane and Simao in Yunnan Province in China will make section of the river capable of handing 2,000 ton ships throughout the year except for a couple weeks in the dry season when water levels are exceptionally low. Both the Chinese and Laotian governments support the project as a means of promoting economic growth through increased trade.

Many locals oppose the dredging operations, They complain large ship creates wakes and waves that can sink smaller boast and worry that large Chinese boats will take away cargo business from smaller local boats and flood the market with cheap Chinese goods and produce. Environmentalist say the dredging damagesriver banks, destroys fish stocks and threatens endangered animals. The dredging operations involves using explosive to blast apart shallow rocks, reefs and shoals and widen channels.

TYPES OF BOATS USED BY TRAVELERS ON THE MEKONG RIVER

Speed Boats called heua wai are used primarily between Luang Prabang and Hat Sa (Prongsali) on the Nam Ou River and between Vientiane and Huay Xai on the Mekong Rivers. They are able to cover a distance in five or six hours what might take a ferry a couple of days but are very dangerous, noisy and uncomfortable. Passengers sit on wooden benches and wear life jackets and crash helmets. They are so noisy passengers on other boats can hear them when they are almost a mile away. Speedboats can take up to six passengers and are generally rented for about $23 a hour, a cost that can be split among several passengers. A trip between Vientiane and Luang Prabang can done be done with six people for about $25 per person.

Accidents involving heua wai are very common. Accidents occur on a weekly basis and often involve fatalities. Because the boats are very light and travel at high speeds, the results can be quite nasty if they hit a rock, sand bar or branch in the river, which is not all that hard to do. Sometimes a bow wave from a large boat is enough to flip them over.

Long-Tailed Boats (named after drive shaft which extend beyond the back of the boat and connects the an automobile engine to a propeller) are used by locals and tourists to get around the rivers of Laos. Tourist generally travel on boat trips sponsored by travel agencies and locals get around on boats that run scheduled routes like buses. The fares for local boats are quite reasonable. The tours aren't very expensive either. Many of the long tailed boats used in Laos are long narrow river taxis with a covering for protection form the sun and rain, A boat that carries eight to 10 passengers can be hired for about $10 an hour

Cargo Boats make the trip between Vientiane and Luang Prabang in about three to four days down river and four to five days upriver.

CHAMPASACK PROVINCE

CHAMPASACK PROVINCE (610 kilometers south of Vientiane) lies to the Southwest in Laos. The capital city is Pakse, located at the confluence of the Mekong and the Sedon rivers. Southeast Asia's biggest waterfall, Khone Pha Pheng, is within easy reach by boat or by road. This is one of the main political and economic centers of Lao P.D.R. The people of Champasack Province settle along the bank of Kong Se Done river. In this province you will find ancient temples which were influenced from the Angkor people who settled in Cambodia. There are many different minorities in Champasack whom have their own language, culture and lifestyles. The distance from Vientiane to Pakse, the provincial capital of Champasack is 610 kilometers by Route 13 (south) via the provinces of Bolikhamxay, Khammouane, Savannakhet and Salavan.

Champasak Province is known for its relaxed pace of life, warm hospitality and rich cultural, historic and natural heritage. The province has been ruled by various kingdoms through the ages, and today there are many archaeological remains scattered throughout the province. To the south of Pakse, the provincial capital is the Vat Phou Temple Complex, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Attractions also include the Ancient City, historic colonial buildings, and Don Daeng Island, known for its traditional livelihoods and forested trails. In the southern region of the province is Don Khong and the Four Thousand Islands, or Si Phan Don in Lao. On this stretch of the Mekong is the largest waterfall by volume in Southeast Asia, Khone Phapheng, as well as Li Phi waterfall noted for its cascading emerald green waters. The endangered freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins inhabit the Mekong near the Lao-Cambodian border and can be observed from locally chartered boats.

In the northeastern region of the province, rising over 1,500 meters above sea level, are the rich volcanic soils and cool climate of the Bolaven Plateau. This area produces some of the finest Arabica coffees in the world, which can be purchased directly from the local growers. The breathtaking Tad Fane Waterfall located on the edge of Dong Houa Sao National Protected Area cascades over 100 meters off the plateau. In Bachieng Chaleunsouk district the picturesque Pa Suam falls are easily reached by road from Pakse.

Located in the northern corner of the province is the Phou Xieng Thong National Protected Area and Khong Mountain, known for its locally guided tours through an orchid conservation area to Hin Khong or ‘Fish Basket Rock’ which overlooks Ubon Province in Thailand. Just north of Pakse is Don Kho Island, the original French colonial capital of Champasak Province and well-known producer of Lao textiles. Other points of interest in northern Champasak are the Buddhist temples and traditional Southern Lao homes in Ban Saphai, as well as the sacred temple, Vat Pho Sayalam, in Ban Vernxay.

Champasak Province is famous for its traditional Lao weavings and unique textile patterns. Ban Saphai is the center of the local textile trade and offers an opportunity to see weaving and purchase textiles directly from the producers.Fish lovers will enjoy the province’s Mekong fish dishes, such as fish salad (laab paa and koi paa), fermented fish (paa dek), and the local specialty, pureed fish (paa ka tao). The Vat Phou Festival is the province’s largest and draws a huge crowd from the entire Lao-Thai-Cambodia region. The event is held at the Vat Phou Temple Complex and falls on the 3rd full moon of the Buddhist lunar calendar, usually in February.

Champasak Province covers 15,415 square kilometers and has a population of 600,000 people. It shares a border with Thailand to the west, Salavan ,Sekong and Attapeu provinces to the north and east, and Cambodia to the south. There are 10 Districts: Pakse, Sanasomboun, Bachaingchaleunsouk, Pasxong, Pathoumphone, Phonthong, Champasack, Sukhuma, Mounlapamok and Khong. The Capital of the province is Pakse. By one count Champasak has about 204 tourist sites (109 natural tourist sites; 40 historical tourist sites and 55 cultural tourist sites) to Getting to Champasak province much easier than it once was. The province now has relatively good land transportation links to other province in Laos and to Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia.

PAK SE

PAK SE (on Route 20, 120 kilometers southwest of Salavanh and 247 kilometers south of Savannakhet) of is located on wide section of the Mekong River at is confluence with the Se Don. Adjacent to the Bloven Plateau, it is a relatively prosperous new town created by the French at the center of Laos's main coffee-growing area. Most tarvelers who come here are on their way to the Khmer ruins at Wat Phu Champasak, Khone Falls and the Four Thousand Islands.

Pak Se itself has a lively markets and some fine examples of southern Lao weaving. The Champasak Historical Museum has example of clothing and jewelry from different ethnic groups, 7th century stone lintels, musical instruments and Dong San bronze drums. There are about 20 wats in te city.

In the Pakse area, there are about 62 tourist sites: 32 natural, 7 historical, and 27 cultural. There are many French colonial style buildings remain in the city. The Sedon Bridge is often called "old bridge" by the people of Champasack. From the bridge, you can walk around to see the old French style quarter. The Lao – Japan Mekong River Bridge was constructed in 2002 and is a route to Thailand.

Wat Poratana Sadsadaram (Wat Luang Temple) is located in the center of Pakse district. It is a temple with a traditional style and new style constructions. The library contains beautiful wall painting and excellent sculptures. Among the other interesting temples located close to the city are Wat Phabat, once called "Wat Tamfai temple" and Wat Chomphet. Big festivals in Pakse district include the the boat racing festival, with many boats from all over the province, a parade of big Mark Beng (folded banana leaves) which is held during Ork Pan Sa day(Buddhist day) in mid-October. You may also want to see the Stone Buddha sculpture work of the people in Chomphet village. Isanew Pakse Market is the main market.

PLACES NEAR PAK SE

Near Pakse you to see the weaving in Ban Spai and Don kho Island which are 18 kilometers from Pakse. You also visit the Mon tree plantation, a silkworm farm, silk weaving by Khma Yard villagers and the making of pots and jars by Kili villagers.

Phapho Elephant Training Region is near Pakse. Many families have elephants, which have traditionally been used to drag logs out of the forest. They are also used in agriculture. There is also good wild pig and python hunting around Phapho. Some say that nearby Kiey Kngong is better for elephant rides. A typical half-day elephant trek goes to the top of a hill named Phu Asa.

Pha Pho Village is regionally known as having skilled elephant tamers, with a long tradition of elephant domestication for the purpose of using elephants to work in forest and fields. This tradition has been falling out of practice, however, as the availability of wild elephants has been dramatically reduced due to habitat loss and, in fact, it is now forbidden to domesticate elephants who reside inside the Xe Pian NPA.

Ban Pha Pho to this day still has a few domesticated elephants and offers elephant rides to tourists who make the journey to their village. The village is located approximately 21 km down the road from the more popular Kiet Ngong Village. Elephant rides take you to nearby wetlands, jungles and rocky outcrops inside Xe Pian NPA, as well as to the Dong Houa Sao NPA corridor known to have an endangered population of gibbons. Elephant rides can be booked at the guest house located in the village. Please, understand that upon arrival it may take some time for the elephants to get ready for your trip, as they may be out in the forest grabbing a bite to eat or helping out their human kind in the fields.

How to get there: From Km48 at Route 13 (south of Pakse on the way to Don Khong/4000 Islands), take the dirt road all the way down, passing the turn off to Kiet Ngong 8 kilometers on your right, until you reach the three way intersection about another 7 kilometers from the Kiet Ngong turnoff. Here you will see a sign for the Pha Pho guest house with a drawing of an elephant and you turn right (going straight takes you to Attapeu on Route 18). Go about another 7 kilometers on the dirt road and you will arrive at Ban Pha Pho.

Pha Suam Waterfall (38 kilometers from Pakse) is the most outstanding one of the tweny waterfalls in Bachieng Chalernsouk District of Champasak Province. It is located on a paved road. On the road back from Pha Suam, at the junction at kilometer 21 is a great place to go to try some fresh seasonal fruits from Bachieng which are sold on the fruits stands and shops, guaranteed to smell good and test sweet. The bananas, pineapples and durian should not be missed. Along the road from kilometers 21, You should give yourself of time to see the ironworks in the village at kilometers 19.

"Hin Kong" (Fish Basket Stone) (50 kilometers from Pakse) is located on the Khong mountain in Ban Mai Sing Samphant. Then you can travel by boat to the north to see the turtle like stone, which is huge "Sao Hin Lak Khone" and a swan-like stone and a mushroom-like stone and Mount Xiengthong reserved forest.

Dong Houa Sao National Protected Area (Champasack Province) covers 1,100 square kilometers. Among the animals found there are: Elephant, grey-faced tit-babbler, yellow-cheeked gibbon. Habitat: Semi-dry evergreen forest is the dominant vegetation type in the lowlands and the uplands. Lowland plains comprise well over half of the protected area at elevations from 100 - 300 meters. Steep to very steep slopes rise to the edge of the Boloven Plateau at an elevation of around 1,000 meters.Peaks near the plateau rim reach almost 1,300 meters. Getting There: Dong Houa Sao is easily accessed from major hard-top, all-weather roads in the west (Route 13 South) and north (Pakse-Paksong). Another east-west road skirts DHS in the south.

COFFEE-GROWING AREA OF CHAMPASAK PROVINCE

Paksong District (near Pakse) has coffee plantation, where visitors can learn how to grow great great coffee. The natural sites consist of Hao Soa Natural Preservation area, Sinxai hill, Nong Louang hill, and Thevada Mountain, an old volcano that exploded many thousands of years ago. There is also Huoay Hor Dam and Non Soung Agricultural Center located at thirty-five Etou village and Dao Heuang .

The Paksong area still has scars from the war such as bomb craters .In Ong Kea Ong Kommadam at Thong Wai village there is an old dam and army office which were built Laos was colonized by the French . Paksong is also well know for many its beautiful waterfalls, for example Houay Xang waterfall, Xang Set Khot waterfall, Xekatam tok waterfall Chetxanh waterfall andothers due to its geography, which consists of thick forests. A plateau and many streams, Tad fan and TAD Champy are fascinating waterfall only 38 kilometers from Pakse.

Coffee Research Center (35 kilometers from Pakse, en route to Paksong) offers Coffee tasting upon request during regular office Hours (8:30 am – 16:30 pm) Monday through Friday. Here You can also purchase fresh coffee or check out experiential coffee plots on the grounds. Coffee and tea are for sale. Nearby are major waterfall sites on the plateau, selected stores such as The Sala Bolaven near kilometers 12, offer a superb variety of local farmer’s products ranging from fruit jams to organic wine. To visit coffee plantations in the area and learn about production process, either hire a guide from tour company in Pakse or visit villages directly.

CHAMPASAK TOWN

CHAMPASAK TOWN (a few hours south of Pakse by truck or boat) is a town with 40,000 that was once an important French colonial town. It has a few dilapidated French colonial buildings and some wats. It is mainly a jumping off point for the Champasak Cultural Park and Wat Phu. Some artifacts from these site are sitting in an office next to the UNESCO office and there is some discussion of making a museum for them.

Champasak District lies 500 kilometers southeast of Vientiane, on the west bank of the Mekong River and is surrounded by Kao Mountain. Because of its location on the terrace of Kao Mountain, you can see the beauty of town, fields and the Mekong River wonderfully from the Mountain. From Wat Phou down to ancient road (this ancient road probably led from Wat phou all the way to Angkor there are several historical sites where travelers can visit. There are also many fine examples of traditional Lao homes and buildings from the colonial period. If you are in Champasack during February, don't miss the Vat Phou Festival

WAT PHU AND THE CHAMPASAK CULTURAL LANDSCAPE AREA

WAT PHU AND THE CHAMPASAK CULTURAL LANDSCAPE AREA (8 kilometers south of Champasak, near the Cambodian border) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The Wat Phu [Vat Wat Phou or Vat Phou] temple complex is a major example of both early and classic Khmer architecture of the 7th-12th centuries. Around Wat Phu are well preserved remains of a sophisticated ancient city. Human sacrifices may have been conducted here. Recent research has shown that this complex is the focal point of a sophisticated cultural landscape centred on the Champasak Plain, taking in the Phou Kao (mountain) to the west and the banks of the Mekong River to the east. Between them are temples, shrines, water tanks, water channels, quarries, historic field systems, settlement sites and an ancient road to Angkor.

In the early 1990s archeologists began excavating around Wat Phu in Chamasak, near the border of present-day Cambodia in southern Laos, and unearthed the well preserved remains of two sophisticated ancient cities: 1) Shrestrapura, which dates back to the 5th century and is regarded as a cradle of the Angkorian empire of Cambodia; and 2) Lingapura, which thrived from the 9th to the 13th centuries. The UNESCO World Heritage Site includes the ancient city of Shestrapura and many little known but interesting archeological sites along the banks of the Mekong River .

Shrestrapura had a rectangular plan and measures 2.3-by-1.8 kilometers and was surrounded by double earthen walls on three sides and the Mekong River on the other side. Other remains include circular foundations, traces of an irrigation system, Hindu statuary, stone tools and ceramics. The site was dated to 5th century by stelae with Sanskrit inscriptions, the oldest of their kind in Southeast Asia. There is evidence of a Hindu shrine that may date to A.D. 3rd century.

The site is being studied by a team lead by Italian archeologist Patrizia Zolese of the Lerici Foundation. Interesting finds include beautiful and well-preserved stone reliefs, ancient ramparts, irrigation canals and a road leading to Angkor. The site is very fragile and preservationist worry about the effects of nature and tourism on it. Major restoration work has yet to be done but there are concerns it might be done in a shoddy, haphzard way. The site welcomed 50,000 visitors in 2000.

According to UNESCO: The Champasak cultural landscape, including the Vat Phou [Wat Phu] Temple complex, is a remarkably well-preserved planned landscape more than 1,000 years old. It was shaped to express the Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity, using an axis from mountain top to river bank to lay out a geometric pattern of temples, shrines and waterworks extending over some 10 kilometers. Two planned cities on the banks of the Mekong River are also part of the site, as well as Phou Kao mountain. The whole represents a development ranging from the 5th to 15th centuries, mainly associated with the Khmer Empire. [Source: UNESCO]

The Temple Complex of Vat Phou bears exceptional testimony to the cultures of Southeast Asia, and in particular to the Khmer Empire which dominated the region in the 10th–14th centuries. The site is also an outstanding example of the integration of symbolic landscape of great spiritual significance to its natural surroundings. Contrived to express the Hindu version of the relationship between nature and humanity, Vat Phou exhibits a remarkable complex of monuments and other structures over an extensive area between river and mountain, some of outstanding architecture, many containing great works of art, and all expressing intense religious conviction and commitment.

The site along with other outlining temple was inscribed on UNESCO’s world heritage List as Wat Phou and Associated Ancient Settlements within the Champasack Cultural landscape in 2001. Am Exhibition Hall funded by the Japanese government was opened at the main entrance area to the site in 2003; this houses important artifacts recovered both within and nearby the complex. A major festival is held at the site in February each year.

To reach Wat Phou Champasack visitors should turn off National Highway 13 some 32 kilometers south of Pakse and continue 4 kilometers to the Mekong River ferry; Wat Phou Champasack lies 14 kilometers south of the ferry terminal on the other site.

HISTORY OF WAT PHU

The Temple Complex of Vat Phou bears exceptional testimony to the cultures of South-East Asia, and in particular to the Khmer Empire, which dominated the region in the 10th-14th centuries. It is an outstanding example of the integration of symbolic landscape of great spiritual significance to its natural surroundings, expressing the Hindu version of the relationship between nature and humanity. [Source: UNESCO]

The origins of the site lie before AD 600, at least at the city of Shrestrapura, where archaeological research has produced evidence of pre-Angkorian times (until c . AD 900). The evidence from its inscriptions has shown that Champasak region was one the old kingdom of Sethapuora in the 5th century A.D., governed by King Thevanika who may be a Cham person. The location of this old Kingdom is about 6.5 kilometers to the east of Wat Phou and share a border with the Mekong River near Wat LaungKao and Phanonneau village, which 400 hectares. The development of the site as a whole, however, was intimately bound up with the origin, development and zenith of the Khmer Empire between the 7th and 12th centuries.

A new line of kings probably centred in the Champasak region expanded its authority from its capital at Isanapura from the 10th century onwards, until it encompassed not only most of modern Cambodia but also much of what is now eastern Thailand. The floruit of the elaborate landscape at Vat Phou occurred during these centuries. Its historical significance lies in its role as an imperial center and its demonstration of Indian rather than Chinese influence in the clear evidence of Hindu religious belief. The last major developments to the Champasak cultural landscape were in the 13th century, just before the collapse of the Khmer Empire.

There is no evidence of any maintenance of the monumental buildings since then, although various other occupations and events have occurred on the site. Vat Phou itself, in contrast to what it represented in the first millennium, was converted to Theravada Buddhism and remains a local center of worship today. Essentially, however, the area reverted to secondary forest, which covered most of it when the first Europeans arrived in the 19th century. An annual Vat Phou Festival demonstrates the continuing place of the site in the lives of the local community.

WAT PHU

WAT PHU (in Champasak) is one of Laos’s great architectural treasures. Built between the 7th and 12th centuries, it is a marvelous set of Khmer ruins featuring graceful galleries and pavilions that extend for 1,400 meters (1,530 yards) over six natural terraces on the lower slopes of a richly forested mountain, facing the Mekong River. The mountain is believed to have been sacred to local people long before a temple was built on it. The Khmer temple was dedicated to Siva and is regarded as one of the earliest Khmer sanctuaries. Located at the northernmost portion of the Khmer Empire (A.D. 800-1200), it was established by the same king who built Angkor in Cambodia. It was most recently renovated by King Suryavarman I in the 11th century.

Perched on three artificial terraces built in the side of a plateau above the Mekong River, Wat Phu covers one and half square miles and encompasses a main sanctuary, six ancillary shrines, two "palaces," a monumental staircase with processional path, Hindu and Buddhist stone carving, and two large reservoirs. Two smaller sanctuaries are connected by a paved road. A third sanctuary is on the opposite of the Mekong River. The view of the Mekong River and valley from the temple is stunning. Sometimes monkeys climb around on the ruins.

Wat Phu means "Mountain Temple." It is reached by a walkway that passes several platforms with smaller temples. The archeological site is divided into three main levels joined by a promenade: 1) a rectangular pavilion built in the 20th century and used by the Lao monarch to watch the Wat Phu Festival; 2) two rectangular pavilions in the middle-level with original 6th century sculpted lintel with images of Siva, Vishnu , Kali, Mandi bulls and Khmer monarchs; and 3) a sanctuary that encloses a large linga, (Shiva phallus). A lintel in the sanctuary depicts Krishna killing his uncle. Sections of a stone pipe that carried water from a sacred cave to the sanctuary are visible.

Converted from Hinduism to Buddhism in the 14th century Wat Phu still plays an important role in local religious life today. The temple complex measures 1,400 meters in line running east to west up the lower part of the Phou Khao Mountain. It is built on six different levels or terraces, connected by steps and central walkway. Most are man-made, but the uppermost level is a natural terrace where a spring flows out of the mountain. The water from this spring was channeled so that is flowed through the main sanctuary and over the central Shiva linga (the place of which is now occupied by a statue of the Buddha). From there the sacred stream flowed down the artificially terraced mountain slope in to two sacred reservoirs or barays and finally in to the Mekong River, whose life-giving waters were believed to sustain the whole of the ancient Khmer Empire. Standing structures within the temple complex include quadrangles, a Nandin Hall, small pavilions, brick towers, stairways and the main shrine, which was dedicated to Shiva.

Near the sanctuary is a wat with a few resident Buddhist monks. The view from here is said to be the best. A path leads to a boulder with a stylized crocodile on it. Some believed that human sacrifices were held here in the pre Anglor era. Within a few kilometers are three other Khmer sites that need some serious restoration work. In recent years, with the help of many international organizations and neighbouring countries, the complex has seen almost continuous renovation projects aimed at keeping what is left of the existing structure from collapsing.

Ever since Buddhism recognized Wat Phou as a site of huge religious and cultural importance, local authorities, together with several other organisations and local people, have organized Boun Wat Phou (Wat Phou Festival) on 15th day of the 3rd month of Lao lunar calendar. Designed to commemorate all those who have contributed to this wonder of ancient architecture and based on traditional Buddhist practices, the festival is held for either three days and three nights or seven days and seven night. It hosts displays of traditional music, dance, sports and a variety of local produce. Most importantly of all, on the final day, senior dignitaries and religious figures from around the country, come to take part in a traditional Taak Baat (alms ceremony). The festival also includes a parade of elephant or horses, a crafts fair and demonstrations of ancient traditions passed down by generations of people living off the surrounding land.

WAT PHU COMPLEX

WAT PHU COMPLEX and Champasack Heritage Landscape is located 500 kilometers south of Vientiane on the east bank of the Mekong River in Champasack province. Wat Phu is an excellent example of early classical Khmer architecture, dating from the 7th to 12th centuries AD. At the foot of Wat Phu is the ancient city of Shestupura, which was settled in the 5th century AD, and is believed to be the oldest urban settlement in Southeast Asia. Besides the main Wat Phu Temple Complex, there are several archeological and nature sites nearby that can take some time to explore.

Wat Phu Champasack is the most famous Hindu temple complex built in Laos under the Khmer Empire, which dominated much of Southeast Asia from the 10th to 14th century. Ancient stone inscriptions found at the complex, describe how it was first built in the 5th century, its gradually began to fall into ruins, before it was finally restored to its former glory in the early 11th century. The temple was further expanded in the 12th and 13th century, with the addition of a new section designed to support the east-west axis, which runs from the foot of a dramatic hillside known as Mount Phou Nak, to the impressive Pathan Palace.

Wat Phu Champasack is distinguished as much by its dramatic and symbolic environmental setting as it is for its masterful architecture and iconographic arts. The temple nestles at the foot of the 1,408- meter Phou Khao Mountain, known in Sanskrit as LingaparWata or ‘Linga Mountain because it is said to resemble the Linga of the Hindu god Shiva. Reputed by legend to be Shiva’s birthplace, this has been a sacred site since in least the A.D. 5th century, when near by Setapura is believed to have been a capital of the proto-Khmer kingdom of upper (Land) Chenla. Construction of the Wat Phu temple as begun as early as the 7th century - under Jayavarman I, though most of the surviving building date from the reigns of Jayavarman VI (1080-1107).

The complex is enormous and includes several large reflection pools and statues of various ruling kings. All these figures are designed to reflect the ethos of goodness and strength behind the Khmer Empire. A planned pre-Angkorian ancient city (4 ha) on the banks of the Mekong appears to have been replaced as the urban center by another planned city immediately south of Vat Phou itself in the Angkor period. A probably contemporary road leads southwards from it, past quarries and other industrial works. Many of these features exist in a carefully planned landscape laid out to reflect its sacred character as perceived by the builders of Vat Phou. The terraced Temple Complex lies at the foot of Phou Kao, stretching west-east to a freshwater spring on a rock Vat Phou temple complex, a major example of both early and classic Khmer architecture of the 7th-12th centuries. Shortly after the collapse of Khmer power, Buddhism became the dominant religion in most of Southeast Asia-yet remarkably. The temple remained largely unchanged. Only a few alterations were commissioned to better serve Buddhist practices, as well as the restoration of several ruined structures.

Recent research has shown that this complex is the focal point of a sophisticated cultural landscape centred on the Champasak Plain, taking in the Phou Kao (mountain) to the west and the banks of the Mekong River to the east. Between them are temples, shrines, water tanks, water channels, quarries, historic field systems, settlement sites and an ancient road to Angkor. terrace where the shrine was built. An axial line from the natural linga (phallic-like point) on the mountain summit through the shrine was used as the basis for the layout of the temple complex: it is 1,400 meters long, with lakes as well as buildings to either side, bisected by an axial processional way.

The use of a natural mountain-top eye-catcher (elevation 1,416 meters) and the relatively high degree of survival of landscape and its structural components, assist present-day appreciation of the grand concept of the original design of what was always intended to be a 'cultural landscape'. Much of it continues in use now as shallow paddy-fields for rice.

Traces of the Khmer road were clearly identified though examination of a series of aerial photographs covering the area from Wat Phu to Angkor. Some extensive sections of the road are still clearly visible at ground level. The road was built after the Khmer Empire was unified, when traveling through provinces was no longer too dangerous. The connection from the Wat Phu temple complex to Angkor again points to the enduring sacred significance of the temple and the LingaparWata or Linga Mountain. The road was built of compacted earth and looks like a causeway. It can be easily recognized in some sections, but other are in poorer condition. Chapels or resting place were built at regular distances along the road; an inscription at Preah Khan (a 12th century temple at Angkor) mentions 121 rest houses (dharmasala) along the route, and ruins of several of them have been found. Today there are a number of villages as well as other ancient monuments along the road, and bushes and trees have grown on it. It is often possible to make out its base, but the track is not always easy to follow without the assistance of an archaeologist. The road starts from the Nandin Hall at Wat Phu Champasack, leading some scholars to suggest that this building was originally a sacred chapel or resting house where pilgrims arriving via the road would stay for their first devotions. A walk of one hour south along the road through open country and woodland leads first to Nang Sida and further to Ban That (18 kilometers from Wat Phou).

SIPHANDAN

SIPHANDAN (on the Mekong River north of the Cambodian border, 148 kilometers from Pakse), or 4,000 Islands, is section of the Mekong River that encompasses 50 kilometers or so and is so wide the river resembles a lake. During the wet season the river is 14 kilometers wide. The widest section of the river. When the river recedes it reveals numerous islands, channels and islets, some of them nothing more than rocks with a hardy bush or two on them. Their number depends on how high or low the river is. The largest islands have year round residents.

The biggest attractions are the falls and the river dolphins, riverside hamlets and old French plantations. The river itself is teeming with life A study in the 1970s described it “among the most biologically productive of all systems on earth.” Among the 150 species of fish found here are catfish, climbing perch, nandid, threadfin, halfbeak and goby.

Siphan Done (4,000 Islands) embraces the widest waterfall in the world (See Below). A fault line just above the border with Cambodian braids the river, creating enormous variety in landforms and scenery. "Many Khod" grows in the small island in the center of waterfall. People in this region believe that whoever has its fruit will gain magic powers immediately. At restaurants in the area, the main item on the menu of course is fresh fish. One more exciting places to visit is another fascinating waterfall called : Liphi Or Somphamid waterfall which is located on Done Khone Island.

At Done Khone- Done Det village, You can see the ruins from Laos was a French colony: an old bridge for sending goods from DoneKhone to DonDet and back to Khone to load in the ships there. From both islands you can see the old ship harbor, fuel store, old train track, and old train engine. At the end of Done Khone you can see the only group of fresh water dolphins in Laos. You can also stay overnight at Done Khone or Done Det.

Khong Island is the largest Siphandan island, measuring 18-by-8 kilometers. On the river boat trip to the island you will see fisherman casting nest as they have done for hundreds of years. There are some tricky rapids near Khong Island that make for a thrilling boat ride. Khong is home to 55,000 residents and has a number of guest houses. The island is quite beautiful. Many people rent bicycles and ride around checking out the rice fields, vegetable gardens, flame trees, coconut and betel palms, and occasional wats.

Khon Island is place where tourist gather to try and catch a glimse of the river dolphins. They are most likely to be seen off the southern tip of the island in the early morning or late afternoon from December to May. The best spot of all is on Kham Island, is a small sand island within Cambodian territory on the Mekong River. Boats make runs to this island for a small fee. Viewing the dolphins from boats isn’t really practical because the boats scare the dolphins off. See Cambodia.

KHONE FALLS

KHONE FALLS (on the Mekong River along the Cambodian border) is the widest waterfall in the world according to the Guinness Book of Records. The series of rapids and falls are 6.7 miles wide, with a drop of 70 feet. The falls are most impressive at the end of the rainy season when the flow is 1.5 million cubic meters per second. This is more than any other fall in the world, and twice as much as Niagra Falls.

Known properly as Khônephapheng Falls, Khone is six mile chain of cataracts. There are two main cascades: Phapheng and Somphamit Falls and several smaller sets of rapids. In some places some flimsy bamboo platforms have been set up for fishermen to use. Don’t try to use them yourself. The magic manikhot tree that sits in the middle of the falls is said to have never been touched by human hands. The river cruise to the falls passes by numerous islands and temples with saffron-robed monks.

The falls are one of the reasons why the Mekong River was one of the last rivers to be explored and developed. Fish amazingly can make their way up the falls but boats can’t. It dashed the hopes of French hoping to use the Mekong River as a transportation link to China.

The French built a 14-kilometers railway so that goods could be moved across two islands to bypass the falls. Cargo at one end of the railway was hoisted from boats and placed on railcars and unloaded back onto to boats at the other end of the line. Sometimes entire boats were lifted and put on railway cars The railroad operated until the end of World War II and was the only railroad built in Laos. After the war the rails were carried away by villagers. All that remains really are two piers, a bridge between the two islands, remains of sleepers and gravel and a rusting steam locomotive. On Khone Island you can hike on part of the old railway bed.

Image Sources:

Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, Lonely Planet Guides, Library of Congress, Laos-Guide-999.com, Compton’s Encyclopedia, The Guardian, National Geographic, Smithsonian magazine, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, Wall Street Journal, The Atlantic Monthly, The Economist, Global Viewpoint (Christian Science Monitor), Foreign Policy, Wikipedia, BBC, CNN, NBC News, Fox News and various books and other publications.

Page Top

© 2008 Jeffrey Hays

Last updated May 2014

This site contains copyrighted material the use of which has not always been authorized by the copyright owner. Such material is made available in an effort to advance understanding of country or topic discussed in the article. This constitutes 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. If you are the copyright owner and would like this content removed from factsanddetails.com, please contact me.