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January 11, 2004

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By Asian standards, northern Laos remains unpopulated. Rocky terrain offers little arable land and keeps population numbers down. Government agents measure the census in thousands not millions. Hill tribe cultures that practice subsistence farming and animal husbandry eke out a living in the rugged hills. The Mekong acts a commerce center and twisting highway. Last night our cargo boat (tourists the cargo) docked at a waystation town called Pakbeng. It looks like a frontier town from the American Old West. A dirt road runs from the dock thru the center of town. The low buildings of plank wood and sheet metal lean against each other. In our room the walls are so thin as to be sheets. If someone belches next door we can not only hear it but feel the breeze.
Rather than face another day on the slow cargo boat, we hire a speedboat for our second day on the Mekong. The speedboat compresses an all day boat ride into several hours. The guidebook doesn't recommend this option because the operators overload the boat and run up to 100 kilometers per hour.
The boat carried us past bathing elephants and cave temples.
This temple offers a Buddha statue for every taste.
Fish net sewing 101