Springtime in a hillside village in Houaphanh Province, north-eastern Laos Travelling from Vietnam into Laos involves passing over the line of the Trường Sơn mountains, it is these that give to Vietnam its characterful S-shape. Along this 1,300 mile (2,130 kilometre) border there are only a handful of crossings. Maybe the most picturesque is the road which follows the River Mã through the mountains. This page has images of two features of that road: the waterwheels on the Vietnamese side of the border and (in February) the plum blossom on the Laos side. The pictures below were taken following Highway 217 in Viet Nam, and then along Routes 6, 1 and 13 in Laos, so leading to Luang Prabang - and the next page. ...areas of northern Vietnam. Their function is to raise water from the river to the level of the surrounding fields Above, one of the barrages which keep the waterwheels supplied. These wheels are a common feature of the landscape in the more fertile... As the hut to the right shows, the wheels are of considerable size. The rudimentary scaffolding supports a pipe which conducts the water from the top of the wheel. The force of the river turns the wheel and the water is raised to the top by buckets on the perimeter of the wheel. In this way water can be distributed to fields that are some 30 feet (10 metres) above the river level These flat fields, a few metres above the river, are able to produce wet rice with the help of the wheels, but that does not make the back breaking... ... work (above) of planting the paddy seedlings into the water any the less arduous The fields are prepared for the planting by ploughing while still under water. A patch of seedlings in the foreground wait to be planted out. To the delight of photographers buffalo are still the norm for this work Village street on Route 1c in Luang Prabang Province Sweeping dust - hopefully to some purpose! A village with tarred road is a welcome site after some three hundred kilometres of poor surfaces. A similarly challenging road to the south can be seen on: 'Laos - Dust and Karsts' A spectrum of reactions to strangers. A single plum tree in blossom stands out against the forest green While above, a grove is formed These trees are much prized in Vietnam for the New Year celebrations, which are usually in early February. So prized are they, that locals have to be weary of 'raiding' parties crossing the border in search of good specimens like these Above to the left there is evidence that the Jeep was there. Thatched houses, plum blossom, children playing. Here, as Route 6 winds through the... ...Province of Houaphanh, south of Sam Nuea, the country provides that rural idyll that makes this part of Laos so uniquely attractive. But it is hot. At this, near the coolest time of year, we had stopped at 10am to put the roof on the Jeep - to keep the sun off Coming up into the mountains from Thanh Hoá in Vietnam, the mornings can be cooler allowing the moist air to form mist in the valleys in this easterly part of Houaphanh Province Views down into the mist... ...as it clears at around 8am Here is a slightly vain attempt to capture this scene of peace. If you are somewhere quiet, and turn your volume up full, you may just be able to hear the gentle sounds of the dawn as the camera sweeps round over the Laos jungle Trailers... The next page continues down this road to Luang Prabang. Maybe a little invidious, but a good candidate for the world's most pleasant town. Other nomination? The next page of the Mosaic Section is headed 'Ganesha'.
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