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Photo by Sampor Burke, Mekong Semester.

Goodbye Laos!

Hi Mekong followers,

We are at the Khone Falls, the only significant waterfall on the entire Mekong river and the largest waterfall by volume in all of Southeast Asia. Once Khone Falls served as as wall against French colonial expansion, negating navigation upriver by boat and forcing the French to build a narrow-gauge railway across the Land of 4,000 Islands (Sipandon), no small task. Until recently, directly in the middle of the falls, perched on a rock outcropping, rose a sacred Manikhot tree, often filled with birds, that was believed to produce the fruit of immortality (But beward: Only on its first and second branches, not its third). Now the tree itself is dead and “housed” in a coffin.

Here the Mekong pours over a rounded edge and rushes through huge rocks, making this turbulent river very attractive to the Lao government and international investors as the next location for a mega-dam project across the waterfall. Like Xayaboury, it’s definitely a big concern for locals, environmental activists, human rights advocates and international NGOs. But Laos aims to be the “battery” of Southeast Asia and yearns to improve itself — evolving from one of the poorest countries in the world toward middle income class by 2020. Everything is rapidly changing here.

But the journey continues… We are about to cross the border to Cambodia. Here are some pictures of our time in Laos.

To the Ban Don Dohn island homestay that we will miss the most, we’d like the express gratitude to our host families and the people that we met along the way.

Mekong Iteam.