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Mekong river boat journey: Houixai, Pakbeng to Luang Prabang: 09 - 14 Feb 2007
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A wooden paddle boat on Mekong river bank - Ban Huay Suwat
A wooden paddle boat on Mekong river bank - Ban Huay Suwat
A boat under repair on the Mekong river bank at Ban Huay Suwat (Khmuk tribal people). Just before noon we arrived at this tribal village for a stop and sightseeing. Out of about 80 houses some have irregular electricity supply produced in a small hydro power plant at a mountain stream. I talked to a little girl and her mother on the sand at the entrance to the community. Village people grow rice and corn, and raise cows, buffalos, pigs, chicken and ducks. Some of their cloths and clothes are weaved in the village. Children study in a small primary school, and some of the graduates would go to a bigger school in other village.

Most of the riverside villages produce and repair wooden boats. Several species of good hardwood including Padauk (Mai Padook) and Teak (Mai Sak) are naturally found quite abundantly here. Most of the logs go to Thailand and China, and may be exported to other countries too. Minor amount of wood products are sent to other Lao towns for use in construction, furniture making and boat building. For motor boats villagers have to import engines and propellers from China and Thailand.

Fire wood
Fire wood
Lesser valued woods not suitable for construction are cut for firewood. Firewood can also be sent to sell in villages which have been transformed into tourist villages.

Laos is said to be trying to sustain the country's natural resources. However since other decent source of (foreign) income has not yet been found, stricter regulation and law enforcement have yet to be practiced widely.

Tourist income, compared against imports of tangible and untangible resources to support tourism, and better or worse change in cultural trends and values, is still a meager amount that can not help create visible healthy general improvement of the majority citizens. It looks like the experience, knowledge and vision and so many things we gain from touring Laos and use of them for our future benefits are far larger than what Lao people receive from us as service fees.

Paddy storage hut
A paddy storage hut in Ban Huay Suwat. To protect the food from rats, slippery iron sheets and barriers are fitted on the posts.

Lady workers loading corn on the boat
At 2 p.m. we arrived at Ban Kun Ting (Liu tribe people). Lady villagers loading the produce (sacks of rice, corn, peanuts) on the boat. The farm products are sent to larger villages or to Pakbeng and Luang Prabang towns.

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