On The Bank of the Mekong

Nakorn Phanom 
9th January 1986

It’s so quiet here that it seems almost compulsory to take a nap. So I did, on a spit of sand reaching half way across to Laos on the opposite bank. I’m not sure how long I drowsed off, but was brought back to half life by the low murmuring of a boat passing by heading up stream.

And then it heard it again. The engine had been switched off so it could drift downstream past me. I watched it through my eyelashes and decided that maybe I should find somewhere else. I’m not sure whether those on board were Thai or Laotian; their uniforms told me little but their guns told me a lot.

So I’m now back on the river embankment gazing across the Mekong at Laos.

Atop of the embankment I can make out a line of two-storey French colonial style buildings in the town of Thakhek. The backcloth of trees is echoed some distance behind by a hag’s teeth range of eroded ancient mountains. There is an order in everything, especially the town. The roofs are tiled, no glint from corrugated iron, and walls look cleanly painted.

A row of houseboats rides at the foot of sloping steps, perhaps the departure point when Laotians and Thais consorted and traded. Some of the embankment is used for crops; neat green rectangles which would be inundated during the rainy season when the Mekong could be raging through perhaps 10 metres higher.

The Mekong in full flood at Nakorn Phanom

I can hear the drone of a powerful motor which at first I thought was a boat engine, but nothing has passed by. Whatever it is, in the hour I’ve sat here I’ve seen no movement, no evidence that people actually live over there. No traffic on the street, no smoke pulled away by the breeze.

It seems to be a prosperous ghost town.


About Jakartass

A Brit Abroad
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