Stung Treng, Cambodia, to Paksong, Laos Week 6 31st May - 1st June 2011
   
Stung Treng is on the South bank of the Sekong River, shortly before it joins the Mekong.

Most of the major bridges in SE Asia have been built in the last 10-20 years.

Before then it was people and vehicle ferries, though boats in general were preferred to vehicles.

This is the bridge over the Sekong.

 
The Sekong is quite large.

The confluence with the Mekong is visible.

Also Stung Treng on the left.

 
Apart from the building on the Lao side, and the feeling we should engage 4wd, all borders should be like this one between Cambodia and Laos.

Maybe it was because we were the only people crossing that made it easier.

Perhaps it was also that they all knew what they were doing. The whole process only took about 15 minutes for customs and immigration on both sides.

That included the Cambodian Customs wanting to look inside - just being nosy with lots of questions about how it all worked, not a search.

Customs for Laos is about 3km down the road. The Lao immigration officer wanted to see the Carnet. Presumably to save themselves the effort if we didn't have one.

Cost was a few US$ total.

 
Khone Phaphong is the first tourist trap over the Lao border.

I haven't a clue about the geology really, but we are leaving the plain and seeing hills and mountains either side.

Something made the mountains rise, I'm picking a bit of volcanic activity some time in the past and a bit of basalt to form the waterfall.

A bit of research to do.

In practical terms, the waterfall forms a barrier to shipping. Possibly why the border is where it is.

 
But what a fishing opportunity.
 
The car park was arranged so tourists have to run the gauntlet of the souvenir shops and restaurants.

A higher standard than Cambodia and less of the hard sell.

Couldn't help but notice the remnants of a French colonial past on the souvenir stalls. We'd already seen people playing Boules.

 
Haven't mentioned it earlier but there are blue and orange ice boxes all over Cambodia, and now in Laos.

They are filled with ice, delivered in a variety of ways (truck, tuk tuk, etc.). We'd observed "ice logs" being sawn to length by hand. Then delivered by hand. Not sure about the hygeine. We did notice one mob using a hook, a bit like the ones used for handling cotton bales elsewhere.

Difficult to describe but Laos appears a bit more oppulent. The drinks fridge is just one small example.We hadn't seen them in Cambodia.

The blue ice box contains large fish.

 
Further up the river is an area of "4000 islands".

Part of the worldwide Ramsay Wetlands agreement.

The backpackers had been herded onto the boat after delivering their tickets to the usual gatekeeper with the usual shouted demand for "ticket".

They and the locals are on their way to Khong Island.

 

 
The same boat partway across the river.

We didn't photograph it but another little difference to Cambodia was the covered drains either side of the road to the ferries.

In Kuala Lumpur the covers were often somewhat broken and we had only seen open drains since.

 
Just another Buddha! Distinctive as it has no roof over its head.

Just as well Buddhas don't get sunburned.

 
The road is noticeably smoother for our old bones.

And not the same crowding of houses and vendors. Though that may change further North.

 
Since there wasn't much on the main road we followed a signpost to a village off the road.

The sign said 4km to Pathumphon.

 
And at the end was the Mekong and a turnaround ideally made for stopping the night.

Alas, not to be.

A word with some of the local ladies and they suggested we would be better a little further along the main road.

No animosity, all smiles.

We'd walked back up the track a hundred or so meters to ask. We figure next time we'll make the truck visible when we ask so we can point at Tardis and better describe what we are asking.

 
We did stay long enough to watch the local fishermen.

Looked a bit precarious but they refused to fall in while we had the camera out.

 
Looking down river from the landing.
 
This is where the track meets the main road.

The road opposite was on our plan.

However, when the locals explained that the water over the road was up to our necks we decided to head North on the main road.

Left turns are always interesting when driving on the right in a right hand drive vehicle. Getting there, no mistake (this time).

 
Just up the road we found the Subye Dee Guest House.

As we've found all along they are happy for us to camp in their car park.

It rained, so we filled tanks and showered.

 
Lao rice paddies look just like Cambodian rice paddies.

These were small ones, flooded, and rice growing.

 
In Pakse we came to a screeching halt outside this rather out of place building.

An ANZ Bank.

Very helpful with very good English.

We changed our leftover Thai Baht and some US$ for Chinese Yuan inside. Withdrew some Lao Laks (or Kips, we'll figure it out later) at one of the ATMs outside.

Much better service than the ANZ in Canberra who had to request foreign currency from Melbourne.

We don't need the Yuan for another couple of weeks but it was good to check that there were no currency controls in the way. One less thing to worry about.

 
Pakse Market was a short walk from the ANZ.

Another small sign of oppulence was flowers and ornamental displays.

 
Heaps of fresh vegetables. More variety than we've seen for a few weeks.

From the Bolaven Plateau (about 1300m) which has the fertile soil and climate to grow things other than rice.

 
This was the meat section.

"Gourmet Chickens".

There's also some bread in there somewhere. Rolls and sliced loaves - a small remnant of the French colonial origins of Pakse.

 
We weren't sure what was in the green barrels.

Some of them were being stirred as we walked past.

It looked like some fishy stew.

 
The clothing section.

This is really a large market.

The population of Pakse is about 70,000 plus the surrounding area.

 
Back to fruit and veggies. The banana section (ripest at the front) is on the left.

Don't misinterpret us. Laos is still a developing country with obvious poverty. Just that there are some small but obvious (to us) differences to Cambodia.

The origin of those differences is somewhere in the political history as well as the agricultural potential of the land and population pressures.

Apart from that you'd get bored if we just said "here's another market".

 
At Paksong on the Bolaven Plateau we stopped at the Bolaven Guest House. How imaginative is that?

Shortly after we stopped this gibbon (we believe) paid a visit. Just the one.

Edit:- thanks again to Laurie. Its a Yellow Cheeked Crested Gibbon. Rare, and most are in Cambodia. Had to have a "win" after seeing so little wildlife.

Much larger and much more human in its movements than the Macaques we've seen previously.

What a magnificient beard.

Hard to photograph as the auto-focus doesn't seem to like fur.

 
It sat around eating a couple of bananas before it got bored watching us and moved off.

Difficult to know if it really was watching us. It had the deepest darkest unfathomable eyes I've ever seen.

We are near hill tribe country. Some of the hill tribes have animalist beliefs. Quite different to the Buddhism of the plain.

We have a sneaking suspicion this Gibbon may have been eaten if it had lived on the plain.

Either that or it would have died of heat stroke with all that fur. Much better suited to life at 1300m.

As are we. We are pleased to have a bit of relief from temperatures above 30C and high humidity. Its a very comfortable 22C at 9pm as I type.

 
The owner of the guest house and his children.

Much curiosity. Lots of sign language.

 
Later we were paid a visit by Dez. A very enthusiastic Singaporean traveling independently. He'd spotted the truck and came for a look.

Only used to seeing our sort of approach to travel on tv documentaries in Singapore he thought we were adventurous. He'd also met someone touring on a BMW motorbike today.

Ali and I have been brought up where travel is common. We thought Dez, without that background, was adventurous.

 
Who would have thought.

Hydrangeas.

Well known garden plant in England, New Zealand, and many other places.

Its a small world!

Perhaps our surprise was that flowers were being grown in the guest house garden. Not sure if they are a cash crop, as those for sale in Pakse Market were.

Until today most of what we've seen being cultivated has been food. We can't imagine flowers being a basic necessity. I'm sure (cynically) that there's an economist somewhere that can explain the genesis of luxury items.

We did once meet a motorhomer with fresh flowers. In a vase held to the table with another essential of Western civilisation, bluetack.

 
Sekong, Naphon, Savannakhet Week 6 2nd - 4th June 2011
Gateway
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Chuck Mon, 11 Jul 11 16:42:01 +1000
I thank you humbly for sharing your wiosdm JJWY


 
 
 
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