Published for the Royal Geographical Society by J. Murray,
Text on page 95
THE UPPER MEKONG, SIAM.
and the other proved so slow that, as the distance was some hundred yards in the then state of the water, it would have taken us two days to get all over. But, to our great satisfaction, the river fell.
At Chanteuk we got some rice and platieng, salt-fish, which the Siamese eat with their rice, and can live on for any length of time. Then, instead of going down the great trail, where a party of two men and a woman we met had just left two of their number dead of fever in the road, I took a drier, if longer route to the south. Our resting-places were Ban Kanong Pra, Ban Tachang, Hoay Sai, and Muak Lek Nua, whence we reached Keng Koi.
The scenery of this forest is most peculiar, and by no means inviting, especially in the continuous heavy rain, when the traveller is attacked by ticks and leeches, flies, and red ants seeking a dry place. The villages are the wretchedest collections of huts, the people mostly very poor; and one constantly wondered how any soul could live in these tiny clearings in the midst of a vast area where, for the most part, the sun never comes, when he might be in healthy, open country. We could seldom get even a banana. Undulating in all directions lies the forest, with now and then a sheet of limestone precipice towering among the drifting rains; the paths,* just wide enough for an ox, continually obstructed by lately fallen trees, round which a detour must be cut in the semi-darkness ; and all the while the dull roar of the rain upon the leaves, with the prospect of a camp, wet through, in long six-feet grasses for the night. At Ban Mai we emerged from the forest, and found a clean village with a lot of cheerful, chatty Laos, who sent three men on with us to Keng Koiathe smartest set of men we had seen since leaving the Mekong.
At Pak Prio, a morningas walk beyond, we found the embankment of the railway to Khorat so far advanced as to have a mile of rails laid above the place, and a locomotive standing almost finished in a shed, to which my men as they came by fell upon their knees and offered the customary Siamese a salaam,a by raising the clasped hands to the forehead. The oxen, which had reached a stream we crossed with ease a few hours before above Keng Koi, found it impassable, and were delayed two days there. My poor fellows, soaked through and through, and with no chance of getting snug at night, had to sleep and live for two days of pouring rain in the sala; but,
* There are a few elephant tracks.* There are a few elephant tracks.