National Geographic : 1954 May
dinner, had shown me the sacred Prabang, a 2-foot high golden image of the standing Buddha, which is the palladium of the kingdom. From this fig ure the town of Luang Prabang gets its name. Luang means "yellow." Statue Held Prisoner in Wars The statue has had many adventures. Cast perhaps in the 13th cen tury, it has several times been "captive" in earlier wars, mainly between the Laotian kingdoms and the Thai. Its facial features are softened from the par tial wearing away of the gold, caused, it is said, when the figure remained for some time submerged in a river. Before it was brought to its present place in the palace, it occupied a high gilded altar in the near by temple of Wat Mai. Another figure, cast in imitation of the sacred statue, now has been placed in the temple in front of a huge seated Buddha. There is also a temple in Luang Prabang and another in Vientiane 675 W. Robert Moore, National Geographic Staff A Car Intrigues Two Meo, Mountain Men of Laos Students of the Indochinese war suspect some Viet Minh raids are made to hijack opium grown by the Meo. Lowland Laotians laugh at the idea of anyone's stealing from these shrewd people. Meo ancestors came out of the north centuries ago. These men wear silver neck rings. called Wat Phra Keo. In them another famous statue of the Buddha, the Phra Keo, or Emerald Buddha (actually of jasper), once rested for a time on its many peregrinations throughout Thailand and Laos. Now the small seated image occupies prime position in the royal temple at Bangkok.* Laos often has been called the "Land of a Million Elephants," and its flag bears the figure of the triple-headed elephant of classi cal religious legend. But I saw not a single elephant. When I asked about the big palace beasts I previously had seen in Luang Pra bang, I was told that they were out in the forest. Kept hobbled, but allowed to roam and feed at will, they are brought into town only for New Year's ceremonies and special festivals. Leaving Luang Prabang, I flew back to Vientiane and then recrossed the Mekong into Thailand. At Muang Nakhon Phanom, where I arrived in time to hear mortars bang ing across the river during reoccupation of Thakhek, I found that the Thai had set up searchlight batteries along the river front in order to spot any night movement across the Mekong. I was surprised to discover that several thousand Vietnamese, or Yuan as the Thai refer to them, had crossed the Mekong to settle in the Thailand border country. Some 8,000 are located in the Muang Nakhon Phanom district and, with 5,000 or more in Mukdahan, * See "Scintillating Siam," by W. Robert Moore, NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC MAGAZINE, February, 1947.