Of Dams and Ecosystems – and Wednesday HDRs

Conflicting stories about a dam across the Mekong: On Monday the Vancouver Sun ran the story Laos agrees to delay dam that neighbours say threatens Mekong. From a story today via Vietnamnet, "Thailand’s second largest contractor is pushing ahead with the controversial Xayaburi dam in Laos despite concerns voiced by environmental activists."

Can't claim to be an expert on Laotian hydroelectric needs or possible ramifications in the Mekong Delta, but having visited both the general area of the dam and the Delta, I can say both are lovely and unique and you'd hate to see the character of either change.

Here's the Mekong upstream from Luang Prabang, Laos. Entirely pristine:

Laos Mekong


And from farther south at the Mekong Delta below Saigon, here are this week's Wednesday HDRs, a couple of photos from Can Tho, Vietnam's eighth largest city. First from the really big floating market, then a textured photo of the terrace at the Victoria Can Tho Hotel:



Both HDRs shot with Nikon D-200, processed in Photomatix Pro and finished in Photoshop CS4.

All these photos click through to larger versions on EarthPhotos.com. Check out the Vietnam Gallery and Laos Gallery there for more. And there are over 300 photos in the HDR Gallery.

And while we're on the subject, read an excerpt from our story Hurtling Through the Mekong Delta.


A trip up the Mekong River – From Phnom Penh to Pakse

Photographer Leo Laksi travels. We'll follow along.

Like we do, Leo Laksi shoots with a Nikon D-700 camera. He posts regular photos to his blog Leo Laksi's Bangkok and Back. Just now, he's about to travel along the Mekong River in seldom visited parts of Cambodia and Laos. Here's the story so far: Part 1 & Part 2.

See also the Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam Galleries at EarthPhotos.com.

Buy You a Beer? Lao?

Beerlao Just reading the Sharing Experiences blog entry titled Beer. It’s timely because earlier this week The New York Times published a long article on one particular beer on a mission, Beer Lao.

There’s even one place where recently we’ve been able to find it here in rural northeast Georgia, of all places. It’s great to see it popping up (albeit only occasionally, so far) hereabouts.

The article reports that, “In Hong Kong’s central district, it (Beer Lao) sells for 44 Hong Kong dollars, or
about $6, a bottle — about the same price as Carlsberg, Stella Artois
or Heineken.

Not so on our first encounter with Beer Lao. On an impossibly hot, dripping-humid afternoon, we sat in full sun at an insubstantial little formica table that comprised half the terrace at a no-name restaurant directly above the Mekong River in Luang Prabang.

We’d just arrived by boat from the northern tip of Thailand, it was so, so bloody hot and well, gee, we were mighty thirsty.

One U.S. dollar first produced two tall, icy bottles (one of which is pictured). A few moments later the barefoot, maybe pre-teen girl returned with a brilliant smile – and a handful of change.

Herewith I submit photographic evidence of our painstaking research into Beer Lao: It’s my beautiful wife Mirja hard by the banks of the River Mekong in Luang Prabang, Laos in June, 2000.

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Tough Times for Thai Tourism

ThaibeachLess than five months ago protests shut down the shiny new Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok, stranding travelers for days.

With the Thai people again at  each  others'  throats (running updates here via Bangkok's Nation newspaper), perhaps it's better
to picture Thailand the way most visitors experience it – like in this
of a beach on an uninhabited islet off Koh Samui.

As governments around the world react to the return of violence in Thailand with travel warnings, the tourism industries in neighboring Cambodia, Laos & Vietnam stand to benefit.

In Laos, the emerging showplace is the ancient royal capital of the Lan
Xang Kingdom, Luang Prabang, a UNESCO World Heritage site on the Mekong River. The introduction of scheduled air service a few years ago has eliminated the need for a long overland trek or, as we experienced in 2000, a long float in from upstream, at the Thai border north of Chiang Rai.

Direct flights have brought other changes. In 2000 a tall cold Beer Lao in Luang Prabang would come with a big smile and change back from your dollar. Nowadays you can spend just shy of USD$500 a night for lodging.

Cambodia is touting development of its coastline, most notably at an island called Kep and adjacent to Vietnam's Phu Quoc island.

Vietnam's tourism sector has a huge jump on Laos and Cambodia. See a photo tour of Vietnam from the Cambodian border in the south all the way up to the far northern Chinese border, previously posted on CS&W. And as you're planning your non-Thai holiday, check out photos in the Laos Gallery and the Cambodia Gallery on EarthPhotos.com.

(Photo above from the Thailand Gallery at EarthPhotos.com.)

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