National Geographic : 1960 Jan
Little Laos, Next Door to Red China Strangely, our early house-hunting expedi tions provided an introduction to one phase of the Lao economy-fishing. A friend had told us about a house for rent on the airport road. When we went to see it, the landlady remarked chattily that its front yard flooded in the rainy season, making it necessary to wade to and from the road. She pointed out, how ever, that we could catch plenty of small edi ble fish in the pool. Fish in a rain puddle? I found this hard to believe, but when the first rains came soon after, I discovered that the hard, dry rice fields do, in fact, come alive with small fish. Almost any afternoon we could see the women and children with baskets or nets garnering the small catches. Fish is a main source of protein in the Lao diet, and as we traveled over the country, we learned the numerous methods of fishing. It was a joy to watch the fishing boats on the Nam Ngum, their huge nets shaped like geometric spider webs. The boats are called kampan, large craft often roofed over with woven palms which make them look like covered wagons (page 66). Nets are let down into the river by a pulley arrangement. Noise Fails to Frighten Catfish At Ban Mouang, in southern Laos, we saw smaller nets used. I was always astonished that anything was caught because of the racket made by the assembly of fishermen and kibitzers. But some large catfish and a good many small fish were trapped each time the net was lowered. Most impressive of all Lao fish is the monster called pa beuk, found in the upper Mekong. It weighs as much as 450 pounds. I formed the habit of arising about 5 a.m. JOHN M. KESHISHIAN, M.D. Bound for the Front, a Plane Loads Supplies for Air Drop to the Army From the airport at Luang Prabang, the de Havilland Beaver will fly 130 miles east to Sam Neua, scene of heavy fighting between Lao and Communist troops. Airlift pro vides the only practical supply line for armies in the hill country. Says the photog rapher: "You may walk four days to reach a point 20 minutes away by air."