Published for the Royal Geographical Society by J. Murray,
Text on page 63
THE UPPER MEKONG, SIAM.
a few of the rapids. As to buying them, it was almost impossible, though it was the only form of fresh food obtainable. We could hardly get the people to take money, and had to barter, though we were rather short of things ourselves. It is odd how difficult it is to get tea, and as our Bangkok tea had given out, hot water, with sometimes a few herbs * picked by Chow Benn Yenn, had to take its place. He also produced a dish of butterfliesa bodies one evening with the curry, but they had, to my mind, not much flavour. He also had a weakness for a species of cricket, which he cooked by throwing on the fire, and then devoured. Frogs, too, are eaten by the Laos, they going to the extent of eating the body as well as legs of the ongan when the rains begin. The Siamese also eat the hob, a small frog, of which the legs are certainly very good; and when the French gunboats were in Bangkok they were not to be got m the markets for love or money.
Up and down this river a considerable trade in hill rice takes place between the hill villages and Luang Prabang, and we met greater numbers of boats than on the Mekong; they were most of them ascending at the time, with three men, or in the longer craft four, poling. The bamboo is placed against the outside shoulder; the man, facing aft and leaning low, runs the boat up till he reaches the deck-house; he then brings in the pole hand-over-hand until he has it about the middle, and then with the arms straight up above bis head, to keep the bamboo over the head of his fellow, goes forward again. This business, continued for hour on hour, is very hard work indeed, as any one who tries it will discover; and the light narrow boat rolls a good deal, making foothold at times very difficult, and no one wearing shoes could stay on board for two minutes.
Going up the rapids is far more dangerous than descending, for the boat has to be poled and often hauled round right angles of rock just outside which a tall hollow sea is jumping in a roaring cataract. If the bows be once caught, away she goes broadside, and nothing will stop her, and all hands at the tow-line go too. It is in this way that all the swampings, as a rule, take place; but, except in Keng Kang, it is seldom that any one is drowned. It is really astonishing at what a rate these fellows run their boats with their poles up the
* Termed, when so drunk, a yah,a or medicine. It is slightly pungent, and is said to be good in dysentery, and especially for keeping off fever in malarious places.* Termed, when so drunk, a yah,a or medicine. It is slightly pungent, and is said to be good in dysentery, and especially for keeping off fever in malarious places.