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Mekong river boat journey: Houixai, Pakbeng to Luang Prabang: 09 - 14 Feb 2007
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Ban Thaxoang, Log carrier boat, Mekong river, Laos
Ban Thaxoang, Log carrier boat, Mekong river
One hour after leaving Pakbeng we passed by Ban Thaxoang village on the southern bank of the river. The village is the begining of the 20 km dirt road southward to Hongsa - the center of the district with the same name. Hongsa is famous for its working elephants mainly used in the timber logging industry. It is becoming a nature tourism base, and guesthouses and tour operators have been set up in recent years to accommodate visitors who want experience of elephant trekking and hiking to remote hilltribe villages.

At Hongsa the road forks into two branches. One to the south-west goes to Laos-Thailand border at Ban Namngeun (laos, Xayabouri province) and Ban Hua Kon (Thailand's Nan province). The other to the south-east goes a long windy way to the capital of the province: Xayabouri. On these roads one does not ask the usual question,"How long does it take?" So far estimate good only for dry season is 15 to 20 km an hour in a pick up truck if the automobile can keep itself in one piece, and you don't hit any misfortune along the journey.

Working elephant at a logging site, Mekong river, Laos
An elephant and other team members waiting for the boat to take them home. Padauk logs (Mae Padook) were cut at the timber site in the hills, and dragged down using the elephent to the sand beach on the river. This elephant is from Hongsa.

Timber elephant and its human co-workers share the similar life. From a drop-off station (in this case is a boat landing) workers unload heavy gear and equipment from the boat, set up the station, arrange the equipment and food and prepare to travel to the designated logging site in the mountains. Equipment and gear loaded on the elephant back, they walk together to the logging site. Once there they must build a shelter to live. Logging activities followed after locating the trees marked to cut. A lot of man energy is used to fell a tree and cut it into pieces which are marked again and pulled and pushed by elephant down to a transport station - the boat landing. They must be able to manage and take responsibility for all matters without outside support for several days to weeks in harsh environment.

If these workers demand salary or income the same level as that we require in the "civilised world", wooden furniture we use in our offices and homes could be several times more expensive.

Ban Kok Ek, Hmong people, Mekong river, Laos
Wooden paddle boats of colours in Ban Kok Ek (Hmong tribe people) village. This larger village has timber logging busines, and is linked to Hongsa - Xayabouri dirt road with a rougher road. Mostly Hmong tribal people live in the village. They have farms growing rice, corn and peanut; and also raise pigs, chicken, turkey and duck.

Peanut in the sand, Ban Kok Ek, Mekong river, Laos
Children are playing their traditional games on the sand bank. Behind them is a small patch of ground nut (peanut) garden. After that the sand slopes downward to the waters of Mekong where the boats stop. From the entrance to Ban Kok Ek village you could see the river backward to the hills and greens from where you have come.

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