Monday, November 30, 2009

Mekong River bank erosion in Vientiane

The stretch of Mekong River between Laos and Thailand is characterized by its meandering course and relatively low gradient through the Khorat plateau and the Isaan. The major consequence of this characteristic is the natural instability of the River banks, its erosion and a growing sedimentation of the river itself.

The Mekong River also changes largely in river height occurring between the rainy season in the months of May to September and the the dry seasons in the rest of the year.

Annual flooding along the Mekong River and its tributaries cause a progressive weakening of the river's embankments. It is this process, which creates steep sloping river banks at various locations along the Mekong river. This phenomenon poses a constant danger to village houses and temples, roads and agricultural land situated along the Mekong River.

Erosion occurs and is affected by the following natural factors: heavy rainfall, vanishing vegetation cover, river bank soil in-stability and river sedimentation amongst other conditions.

In Vientiane, the bigger parts of the Mekong River banks have been cleared of trees and vegetation. Some places along Don Chan Island have been re-used for agricultural purposes. Local people planted vegetables and crops along the banks – raising concerns with the Vientiane municipality and the Lao government about the increased erosion of the unprotected river banks during high flow periods.

Therefore in Vientiane and other places, river bank revetment is considered to be the best engineering solution to stop and prevent the more and more serious Mekong River bank erosion.

To date, approximately 3 km of river bank protection and revetment work has been undertaken and more is to follow.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Caves and Wat Dane Soung

Located some 30 km northwest of Vientiane, Dane Soung is accessible by following the RN13 towards the direction of Luang Prabang.

After 22 km, turn left at the village of Bane Houa Khoua follow the path until you reach a small lake.

Another 3 km further down the road (just after a small bridge), after a corner, leaving the road and take the straight track, which is in fairly good condition.

The track deteriorates somewhat but remains accessible to ordinary vehicle in the dry season.

You will soon be rewarded for your efforts with some nice nature and great views once you reach the top of a large sandstone plateau.

Leave your vehicle near the temple where you can admire a magnificent footprint of Buddha carved into the stone.

Explore the surrounding by walking between and through great slabs of sandstone. Many of them host caves, which are home to some Buddha statues of various sizes and indefinite period.

Continuing your walk eastward, you soon will arrive at the eastern edge of the site that dominates the plain of Vientiane. Weather permitting, you may encounter one of them most superb views over Vientiane, the Mekong River valley and the Nam Ngum reservoir.

The small Wat is been taken care of by one single eremite living there whole year round. Enjoy a tea or some coffee with him.

You may also show him the pictures you took from the area - he might give you some hints what you missed...

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Wat Si Muang - Vientiane's corner stone

During the monsoon months (April to September), flooding can make it difficult to explore the country side outside of Vientiane capital. It is preferable to conduct tours in and around Vientiane, a visit of Wat Si Muang is particularly suitable.

Wat Si Muang is less known as Wat Phra Kaew and Wat Sisaket, Wat Si Muang nevertheless has a special attraction.

Founded in 1563 under the reign of King Setthathirat it was destroyed by the Siamese in 1828, like most other temples in Vientiane, rebuilt in 1915 and renovated in 1960. Wat Si Muang is currently in good condition and well maintained. The temple is situated at the junction of Samsenthai and Setthathirat road. The statue of King Sisavangvong is in a nearby park just next to the main entrance.

The main attraction of Wat Si Muang however is the presence of a square pillar which perhaps was once part of a former Khmer sanctuary. This pillar became the lak muang or city pillar of Vientiane in 1560. The pillar is inside the sim.

Behind the main sanctuary, one can see a ruined Khmer twin stupa - inhabited by a large stork like bird.

Wat Si Muang plays and important role for the yearly That Luang Festival, held during the month of November.