National Geographic : 1954 May
666 w . I1oert M1 're. Natimlal (ti graphi1Stall The Mekong River Splits the Indochinese Peninsula into Zones of War and Peace Springing from Tibetan highlands, the Mekong for more than 500 miles separates Thailand from Laos (map, page 669). Laos has been ravaged by hit-and-run war against the French Union by the Communist led Viet Minh. Here, north of Luang Prabang, the river runs low, but can rise over 20 feet with monsoon rains. The Mekong has thousands of narrow boats; one with an outboard, as here, is a rarity. dancers reap a harvest of piasters acting as partners to local gay blades. Every morning I awoke to the bustle of people going to market. Hundreds of vendors trotted along the streets to the central market square, carrying trays and baskets of vege tables, fruit, fish, live poultry, and rice (page 668). In the parade, too, were numerous shop pers on bicycles. Not until I saw the bicycle parking ranks beside the market did I believe so many vehicles could be crowded into a single square (page 680). The only person I saw in the market who was busier than the bicycle attendants was a woman trying to keep a large bowlful of squirming eels from escaping. Time after time she turned the slippery creatures back: finally, in disgust, she dumped them into a basket and firmly clamped down the lid. Vientiane reminds one more of a country town than a capital city. Oxcarts creak along the streets, and water buffaloes wallow in pools fringing gardens and rice fields. Biggest buildings in town, except for a few govern ment offices, are the Buddhist temples.