This is a sort of travelogue, experiences and observations combined with random contemplations,
of a trip through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam in Jan-March 2011. This blog is now closed.

Monday, 31 January 2011

Luang Nam Tha

After two days travel – well, one and a half, but still – we deserved some time off. Having found a simple but comfortable guesthouse, with good food, with a new discovery on the drinks front - Lao Lemon, which is a shot of the undrinkable local whisky made drinkable by mixing it with fresh lemon juice and ice, the gin tonic alternative in remoter Laos where gin and/or tonic are not available -, and with Wifi and all, we didn’t move much anymore after arriving in Luang Nam Tha. We took a leisurely walk, across the river and then through a few local villages: not fantastically exciting. The villages we have seen so far appeared much more authentic than what one finds around Luang Nam Tha, a place clearly benefitting from the tourist industry and the economic boost that come with it. An afternoon on the bicycle was more entertaining, although like the busses, these have been designed for Lao people, considerably shorter than we are. Observing village life, people’s activities in the fields - and the ever present wedding party, it is the season -, but once again, things are relatively developed here. Even if there are minority people around, they have long switched to Western dress. Strikingly, some of the children here have learned some English words, like ‘pen’: sad to see that the influx of western tourists here has created a begging culture otherwise absent in this country (with the exception of monks asking their food alms, of course, but that is something else).
(1) the start of our walk.

(2, 3) a local village

(4, 5) local people going about their business
(6) the rice paddies
One of my favourite places in town is always the market, and in that respect we were not disappointed. An early morning stroll in between the stalls filled with every conceivable food stuff is a very enjoyable activity, and Laos markets add the smell: not of rotting foods in the back, as so many other places I remember, but of fresh mint and fresh coriander, and all the other herbs that are being used in Lao food. There is a brisk trade in chicken and geese, the sales woman stuffing the fluttering bird into a plastic bag so as to ensure the utmost freshness. On the other side of the market buffalo ears, tails and feet are sharing the table with everything else from the animal, nothing is being wasted.

(7, 8) The market, just imagine the smell of mint and coriander
(and imagine the chilies, we’ll talk about food later…)

(9) and after the shopping, on the way back home again
(10) Also in the market, the local basket seller – this time we could not withstand the temptation
Luang Nam Tha is in fact two towns, the old one having been so badly damaged in the war in the 70s that it was decided to built a new town, 7 km further. The new town is where everything happens, and where the tourist industry is based. A multitude of guesthouses, restaurants, laundry services and trekking agencies that also rent bikes, plus all the foreigners to justify this infrastructure. The main street is totally given over to tourism, normal Lao people not associated with the business don’t come here. There is a night market with food stalls, for foreigners, the back-packing variety mainly. Can be a little overwhelming! But then, we are also chilling out here. Did I, in a previous life, comment on the laptop tribe? Well, here they are, once again, mostly with humble netbooks, lined up in the restaurant, at each and every table. And we are part of that, too, of course, otherwise you wouldn’t be reading this.
(11) well, OK then, there are still some minority people left in Luang Nam Tha

Saturday, 29 January 2011


One could fly out of Phongsaly. Twice a week there is a flight, leaving from an airport 1.5 hours drive outside town. We elected to take the bus, ultimately probably quicker given our travel plans, and most definitely more interesting. I like bus travel, even though it may not always be very comfortable. There is a certain charm in seeing the world pass by, pulling into the occasional bus station with all its activities, and observing local people, seeing then getting in and out of the bus, with all their belongings – you cannot imagine what they so all carry.
There is a direct bus to Luang Nam Tha, but this goes part across Chinese territory, and is thus only accessible for Lao people, no foreigners allowed. Which is a pity, because now we are forced to take the detour via Udomxai. Yet, the trip is interesting, down the mountains, past many authentic villages – no tourism here, for sure – with a wide variety of minority people. Only problem is that taking photos from the bus doesn’t work very well.
From Phongsaly, the bus is half empty, but this changes quickly. At the next bus station the bus fills up rapidly, and out of nowhere comes a stack of plastic stools, adding extra seating. Most luggage is hauled onto the roof, including a motorbike, but plenty of stuff also goes inside. We have reasonably comfortable seats, with the proviso that Lao people are generally considerable shorter than westerners. We all receive a small plastic bag, which initially we thought was for collecting rubbish. So we put a banana peel in our bag, some used tissues, a plastic cover from the biscuits. Silly! Everything, bottles, cans, wrappings, goes through the window, outside, and if not, it goes on the floor. The bags are for car sickness, are generously used by quite a few of the passengers, and after having been filled, so to speak, also go through the window.
In Udomxai we book ourselves into a brand new hotel, the Charming Lao Hotel, which opened only two weeks ago. They still have much to learn. The town has little else to offer, apart from a number of Chinese restaurants, where we eat well. This is a modern trading town, on the intersection of various euphemistically called highways, amongst others the one to China and the one to Vietnam (right, across the ferry in Muang Khua, remember?), and it shows. Shops are full of Chinese goods, and Chinese is the dominant foreign language, once again.
Next morning’s bus to Luang Nam Tha is a small Chinese bus, with plenty of leg room – wish we had this one for the long distance, today’s trip is only 3.5 hours, and not particularly exciting. We arrive in time for lunch, in a sunny and, for once, warm Luang Nam Tha.
No photos this time…. promise to make up for this next time.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Ban Tang

Having spent the Sunday leisurely wandering around town, and being entertained by a local wedding - big tent on the street, lots of food, and a growing stench of beer and spirits, no doubt large quantities of Lao whisky, and all of this accompanied by very loud music, which easily beat the sound level of the wake-up calls - we decided to turn the local tour operator into a millionaire. We had come to see minorities, abundantly present in this part of the country. Initially we had planned to do a bit of trekking, but due to various ailments there was no other option than to rent a car to get out of town. Absolute rip-off, but what do you do, if you have come this far, and are being blackmailed by the monopolist tour operator in the town? You make him a millionaire.
So early next morning we climbed in a van, and set off for Ban Tang, the village furthers away we could reach in a day. Had I told you already that it was bitterly cold in Phongsaly? At 1400 m, in January, this is a far cry from the tropical weather we had anticipated when leaving The Netherlands, and especially the mornings, with dense fog, are very chilly. The clouds never disappeared that day, but we went lower, and so managed to get some kind of a view of the surrounding mountains, the occasional rice paddies at the bottom of the valley and various types of plantations, most notably bananas (amazing, with these temperatures, but at least in summer it does get warm here). Most of the agricultural produce is hauled off to China: as in so many other places in the world, what one could not conquer through warfare, one conquers economically. But we really came to see villages and exotically dressed minority people, and we saw plenty of that.

(1)    Rice paddies at the bottom of the valley
The villages are mostly wooden houses on stilts, many still with thatched roofs, although corrugated iron makes inroads here, too. Life in the villages is equally ancient. Utensils that we proudly display in our house, baskets and pots, are here being used daily, and are lying and hanging around everywhere. (No, we didn't, in case you're interested....)
(2)    Village with some traditional houses left, high thatched roofs, although most house owners have turned to corrugated iron.
(3)    One of the houses, on stilts, the first floor is living accommodation, below is storage space.

(4)    and (5) funny, the type of utensils we have on the wall, they have here, too….
We reached Ban Tang around midday, and were treated for lunch with fish, some kind of small deer, and sticky rice - sticky rice is everywhere in Laos, together with jeos, a spicy dip. The fish was from the Nam Ou, a river well known to us, but here much further upstream then we have thus far seen it - and un-navigable. As in so many other places, the villagers have submerged propellers in the water, from which they derive electricity.
(6)    Ban Tang hydro-power plant, in the Ou River
Women still dress traditionally, with spectacular embroidered cloths, and headdresses full of silver jewelry and coins. These are mostly Akha people, in dark blue and black. Children, too, are often in embroidered jackets - and with no pants on, a clear sign of poverty. But it goes to show that they don't put up a show for tourists, this is how they go about their lives every day. Which is also proven by the fact that most of them were unfamiliar with a camera LCD screen. Pictures, in this case, say so much more than words.
(7)    Not sure which tribe this is..
(8, 9, 10, 11, 12) but these are all Akha people. Note that even the kids have their tunic, but no trousers.
We got back to Phongsaly, and back in the clouds, after dark. Well worth a million.

Thursday, 27 January 2011


What can I say about Phongsaly? An enchanting little town, far north in Laos. It has what is called the old town, a maze of narrow stone-covered streets, where people go about their business as they must have done for centuries. They chop fire wood, they dry their rice cakes on the roofs, and on large bamboo mats, they also dry pig fat, and the occasional rat they caught - no doubt to eat later on -, and small boys walk onto the street to pee, uninhibited by shame. This was my Sunday morning walk, and nobody seemed to take offense of me being there.

Until the late 1800s Phongsaly was linked to Xishuangbanna, a small state-let under the influence of Chinese-administred Yunnan, now still a province of China. The French wrestled if from the Chinese and added it to their Laos protectorate in 1895, and subsequently reinforced the town, which is probably the only reason it is somewhat larger than the surrounding villages. (The French had good reasons for reinforcing, as the Chinese had rampaged into Laos before, on several occasions, and ransacked the place.) On the other hand, it is Sofia's theory, and with merit, that where the Chinese come, they spurt development - something we witnessed in Tibet ten years ago, however politically incorrect an observation -, so perhaps the people of Phongsaly were screwed by the French, who knows?.
Unlike the earlier towns we have been to, tourism hasn't really arrived here yet. English is not much spoken here, in fact Sofia got further with speaking Chinese in the shops than I got speaking English. The restaurants don't have a menu, you just walk into the kitchen, point at what you want, and hope for the best (it worked, for your information). Accommodation is, well, basic.
Big brother is ominously present. The municipality turns off the power at 10 pm (in any case, the streets lights are not working at all), it has been collectively decided that this is a good time to go to sleep - in order to be bright and shiny for the 5.30 am wake-up call, with National Anthem and Che Guevara march, as well as a string of no doubt important messages, coming out of the town's sound system, loud and clear, well, mostly loud. And this goes on for two hours, to make sure you don’t fall asleep again. I would start a revolution if they would do this in Didam.
(1) The old town, including a boy peeing in the street (really!)

(2) An old lady enjoying Sunday morning sun, and (3) another chopping wood.

(4) Chillies and rice patties drying, and (5) you didn’t believe me, right,
 when I said rats drying out in the sun?

(6) The Pongsaly express post office.

(7) This is also one of the very few places where we saw horses,
any kind of pack animals, being used… and their saddles (no, we didn't...).


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Nam Ou

(this is, once again, old news, relates to 18, 19, 20 January; and as far as the length goes, take your time, I have once again not managed to write short and crisp, but my chief editor advises me to post the whole lot.)

You can fly to Phongsaly. But that misses the point, the real thing is getting there by river. The Nam Ou – the Ou river, the same one that ends up in the Mekong near the caves we visited earlier – is one of the nicest rivers I have traveled on, although perhaps not the most comfortable. The trip to Phongsali, or rather to Hat Sa, the village close to Phongsaly, and the end of river traffic upstream, is a three day exercise, if you are lucky. It starts with an anything between 6 and 9 hours boat trip from Luang Prabang to Nong Khiaw, but only if there are enough people, which means tourists. In the past this was the way the local people traveled, as well, but since the completion of the road a bus ride, 3 hours only and half the price, is, understandably, preferred over what is known in Lao language as a slow boat. We were lucky, there were enough people, and we easily filled a long, narrow, flat-bottomed boat, complete with sun roof and life jackets (really!). The boat was equipped with low, wooden seats, very small, which allowed us to face forward; most of the boats only have wooden benches along the sides. And it only got better when we found out you could move the seats, and so create more leg space in between, an immediate upgrade from economy to business class. No reclining seats yet, no in-flight entertainment, no snacks, no toilets, no nothing really, but hey, we were prepared, with a rucksack full of water, bananas, biscuits, cheese and even a pot of French pate (A bottle wine would have been pushing it, I think). And the life jackets helped somewhat as pillows and back support – but not much, certainly not anymore after seven hours, which is what it took us to reach Nong Kiauw.

(1) this is the type of boat I am talking about.

Along the way, absolutely brilliant! We first went back up the Mekong, to where the caves are, and then turned into the Nam Ou, a much smaller river, very peaceful, with beautiful verdant green banks, fairly steep, but above all, idyllic, pristine, what other adjectives are there to describe this? And also much shallower, something we noticed almost immediately, when the boat started to negotiate the rapids. And that set the scene for the whole three days. Every so often the placid stream turned into a fast running, choppy river, with menacing rocks showing just below the surface. Once the river got so shallow that we had to walk around the rapids, to be picked up again upstream, whilst the boat went through empty - well, with boat driver and luggage. The further upstream, the narrower the river, the stronger the current , and the more difficulty the boat had to get through. I have to admit that I was not always equally confident that we would make it. Especially when our kamikaze boat driver started to slow down, that was the time to get worried, but not as much as when he gave over the wheel to his apprentice, who was visibly nervous trying to follow the broad arm-waving instructions (Have you ever played billiard with us, and noticed my suggetions for your next carambole? Something like that).

 (2) the end of the Nam Ou, or the beginning, 
whichever way you look at it - for us the start of a trip, and
 (3) rapids, and these are still pretty humble.

But I was going to tell you about how nice this trip was. There’s lots of activity on the river, first and foremost fishing, off course. Nets everywhere, and small canoes moving in between them, checking, re-setting. Then there is the weed business. Weed? Laos? But it is not what you think, I am talking about river weed: a large part of the population seems to be involved in collecting this, people standing up to their waists in the water and scraping the rocky bottom, especially around the rapids, for long, green, slimy weeds, which are happily put over a shoulder, or in baskets and canoes. The weed is later dried and fried, and makes a good snack (we tried it earlier, in Luang Prabang). Other types of business involve gold panning, and some form of gravel winning, perhaps, the structures look too big for catching nuggets.

(4) fish traps ready to use, (5) a fisherman in his canoe, and (6) nets drying.

(7 and 8) the weed business

(9) gold panning

Apart from the human population there are the animals. Cows come to drink at the river, pigs roam around freely, but most obvious, and most numerous, are the water buffalos, genuinely ugly animals, however, fun to watch when they get into the river, or look at you with just their nose and eyes and horns above the water. What nobody tells you about is the incredible smell that is generated from having a bunch of water buffalos together, but anyhow, that blows away again quickly.

(10) the water buffalos

Nong Kiauw itself is a small village along the river, mostly deriving its importance from the bridge across it – the first one we have seen so far -, and increasingly catering for tourism, but mostly the lower end of it, financially speaking. There are a few guesthouses, and enterprising travel agencies offer trekking to minority villages, a big attraction in this area. About 60% of the populationin Laos is ethnically Lao, known as Lowland Lao in the official jargon. Another significant part is the “Approaching the top of the mountain Lao”, living halfway up the hills, and some 5-10% or so are High Lao, officially those who live above 1000m. In reality, they consist of many different ethnic groups, the best known probably the Hmong (who were armed and financed by the Americans to fight the communist Pathet Lao in the 70s), but many others are equally unique, authentic and colourful, collectively known as minorities.

(11)  Nong Kiauw bridge and boat landing

The second leg of this trip goes from Nong Kiauw to Muang Khua, another 5 hours upstream. Once again, we need sufficient tourists for the trip, and it is tight, this time, only five of us going. The case is sealed when we offer to pay a little extra, only for it to almost fall through again at the last moment, when the ticket man wants to squeeze us in with about 20-25 others in an already overfull boat. That is not what we paid extra for! We probably paid part of the extra money directly into his pocket, because when we threatened to cancel and ask our money back, he laid on another boat – economy class, ie hard benches, only. All of this had created quite some delay, and in the end we only left at noon, having been at the pier from 9 am onwards. In Muang Noi, the next large village an hour further and another tourist hang-out, we swap boats again, now with benches and, admittedly hard, pillows. I may seem obsessed with the seating provisions on the boats, but after you have been on them for a while, you would be, too!

This stretch of river is narrower than before, and the banks become steeper, occasionally formed by sheer vertical limestone cliffs. This karst landscape, still mostly overgrown by dense jungle, continues to dominate the scenery the following days to, becoming ever more impressive the further upstream we get. This goes hand in hand with the river itself also getting more and more rocky, with increasingly challenging rapids – and increasing levels of anxiety.
(12) did anybody mention karst landscape?

There is a Chinese plan, far advanced and well financed, to build no less than seven dams in the river, and we pass one of the potential spots, an obvious choice where the limestone cliffs come close together. There is a lot of speak about balancing the seemingly conflicting interest of power generation with that of tourism, ensuring a natural flow of water and so forth, and it must be pretty complex to design a flow plan that does not affect the river environment. So the overall opinion amongst the tourist community, mostly back-packing, is very negative, but I am not so sure. After all, some of the power will be used locally, perhaps replacing those intricate contraptions with tiny wires off the submerged boat engine screws that are now providing the hydropower to the villages, and the rest can be sold back to China; the project will generate lots of work, and with a bit of luck the navigability of the river could even be improved, benefitting tourism in making it a year round option (now boats stop operating in the dry season, when water levels get too low). But doing the trip as we are doing it, undisturbed upriver, that will be a thing of the past, for sure.

Muang Khua looks even more insignificant than Nong Kiauw, with fewer facilities – although apparently the village is actually bigger. It is located on the way to Vietnam, and it shows: shops are full of electronics, mobile phones, anything that is worthwhile smuggling, I suppose. The river crossing here is by ferry, an old iron pontoon, connected to the mountain side with steel cables and further aided by a small support boat, to avoid the pontoon floating downstream should the cable break. I think the village’s tourist credentials are mostly as transfer point to and from Vietnam, and down the river. There is not much in terms of accommodation, and the guesthouses become increasingly more basic.
(13) Muang Khua ferry: this is the highway to Vietnam.

The last etappe, from Muang Khua to Hat Se, turns out the most enjoyable, in part because Sofia had purchased two soft pillows. Where on the previous streches we had still been served with a plank to get on and off the boat, this wasn’t available anymore, so turn to flipflops and to wading knee deep through the water to get in. The boat is now a regular ferry – still the same type of boat, of course, with the same benches -, mostly serving local people along the river, as there is no other means of transport. We are the only foreigners, for the rest the boat fills up with local people, 8-12 at any one time, including several small children. Instead of going directly to Hat Sa, we stop many times, dropping off people and picking up others, including the odd chicken. Many a stop is a major exercise, because the people have been bringing supplies, varying from the contents of a grocery store to cement bags to a wooden display cabinet, and the offloading requires everybody to help. But it also gives us the chance, occasionally, to scramble, on flipflops!, up the steep slope – the villages are invariably located well above the water level – and peek around. Gradually the boat empties, and for the last hour or so we have the boat to ourselves. The river is now alternating between sereen water pools, ripple-less, mirroring the mountains, rocks and trees, and long streches of rapids, leaving only very narrow channels to navigate the boat through. After 6 hours we reach Hat Sa, a small and insignificant village, but for the road, and a truck, to Phongsaly, an hour further up the mountain. We could have flown, of course, but we would have missed all the fun. And fun it was, mostly!

(14) a village high up the bank, and
 (15) a woman working the weeds (for eating, not for smoking).

(16) the boat full, from village to village, and 
(17) at the end of the trip we have the boat for ourselves, note the colourful pillow!!

(18) they don't come more peaceful, pristine, idyllic, them rivers...

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Luang Prabang (2)

(note: this relates to the 19th of January, but lack of internet access prevented me from uploading this earlier)

Many of the attractions in Luang Prabang, including the majority of temples large and small, and a pretty building that used to be the Royal Palace and is now nothing less than the Luang Prabang national museum – not sure how that works, a national museum of a town -, are located on the small, narrow peninsula between the Mekong and a tributary, the Nam Khan. At the end of the peninsula is a small hill and a steep climb of the stairs leads to Phu Si, a Buddhist stupa and temple at the top. With fine weather, one would also have great views over the town and the Mekong from here, but when we got there, it was pretty hazy (or maybe the effort had clouded our view). A further path leads to an alleged footprint of the Buddha. I have so my doubts, starting with the size of the foot, but anyhow. Walking down on the other side, the main land so to speak, brings one to the oldest temple, Wat Wisunalat, almost 500 years old, and showing it. And that is all, really, not much more to do in town, apart from lazing around along the river bank, a pleasant enough activity… which was rudely disturbed by a swelling noise at around four in the afternoon, coming from all over town. As it turned out, every two weeks, for new moon and full moon, the monks at all the temples beat the drums, gongs and cymbals for about 20 minutes, and hard work it is! It also creates a very special atmosphere in town, not to be misses if one is around (except that, at 4 am, the drum banging was repeated, perhaps not as loud as in the afternoon, but enough to wake up).

(1) The front of the palace, with the royal shield: not quite a million elephants.

(2) a stupa at Wat Wisunalat, (3) and a window, wooden grills.

(4) Monk beating the drum for full moon, and
(5) a nice specimen it is, we actually considered making a offer,
to add it to our collection.

Outside town there are plenty other sights, the most popular one being the Pak Ou caves. Ou is the name of another tributary, Pak means mouth, so you can work out the rest. Rather than signing up for a tour we rented our own boat with driver, and set off leasurely one morning, upstream the Mekong, to the – indeed – mouth of the Ou river. Just outside Luang Prabang it is still very busy with river traffic, although seemingly mostly related to the tourist trade. We were not the only ones with a rented boat, yet from what was moored along the banks, on both sides, many more people could have done so today, from small canoe type with outboard engine to large, what would it be?, 40? 50? seaters with wooden sun roofs. All boats seem to head for the same spot, the caves, and all boat drivers try to minimize the effect from the current. It is a bit like Formula 1, everybody knows the ideal line, tries to stick to it as much as possible, and only diverts if overtaking. The associated exhaust fumes of this flotilla are also reminiscent of Formula 1, I guess.

(6) Some of the boats available on the Mekong.

It is about two hours to the caves, but one can break the journey by stopping off at the "whisky village". Right! The ultimate tourist trap. Ban Xang Hai apparently used to make jars, but they have now shifted to making whisky, or so goes the story. Perhaps "jar village" didn’t have the same pull as "whisky village". Well, we did find, all the way to the back, a primitive distilling set up, where strong smelling fluid did drip into large vessels and where bottles of rice whisky and rice wine were for sale, including special ones with vile-looking animals inside - snakes, crickets, and many other undefinable creatures, quite likely drunk and most certainly dead. But the rest of the village was totally dedicated to selling cloth, scarves, skirts, and what else you can weave. To be fair, so here and there they do sell the occasional bottle of local whisky, which, to be sure, is quite undrinkable even without animals inside. I believe strongly in comparitive advantage: for instance, why would The Netherlands produce wine, invariably mediocre and overpriced, if the French and the Italians, not to speak of many other countries with a much more suitable climate, do a much better job?. Something similar is at hand with Lao whisky.

(7) the only place we found "whisky" in the village, and
(8) attractively bottled they are!, (9) but most of the village is
dedicated to weaving.

On to the caves, then. This has been a spot where people have been offering Buddha sculptures for centuries, and most of them are still here (the sculptures, not the people). Sadly, especially in the upper cave many have been vandalised, and probably others have been stolen – people are the same all over the world – but the selection on display in the lower cave is quite impressive. And the trip to the cave, on the river and back again, is for us at least, equally if not even more enjoyable. The river becomes narrower, upstream, with plentiful menacing rock outcropping. The main channel is occasionally indicated with cement pilars, the height of which suggest strongly that the river could get a lot higher than it was today – and that these outcropping rocks could well disappear below the surface. Anybody’s guess what is just below the surface, right now! Apart from rocks, fish, for sure, and many people are involved in catching it, with traps and fixed fishing nets as well is with nets and rods from small canoes. The results we have been eating, of course, as part of the excellent Lao food available in Luang Prabang.

(10) A small selection of the Buddhas in the Pak Ou cave.

(11) Pillars indicate the main channel of the Mekong, and also suggest that the water level can get quite a lot higher in the rainy season, and you won’t see those rocks anymore.

(12) What looks like polution, plastic floating on the river, is in fact the floaters indicating the location of fishing traps and nets, whilst (13) others will try their luck from their canoe.

Also out of town, but in another direction, is the grave of Henri Mouhot, the French explorer who has been credited with bringing Ankhor Wat back under the attention of the Western world. Annoyingly, many guide books state that he "discovered" the place, a claim he himself is careful to avoid in his travel notes, posthumously published by his brother. Henri died in Luang Prabang, in 1861 if I am not mistaken, from what was then called jungle fever, likely malaria. He did not complete his intended loup from Thailand to Luang Prabang and then down the Mekong to Phnom Penh, another of his trips in the region after he had already explored parts of Northern Thailand, the Thai and Cambodian coast and, indeed, Ankhor Wat. How people in those days could get away with years of travel – Henri spent from 1859-1861 in the area – I don’t know, and he was certainly not the only one, "man of leisure and means", as I have seen them described. His is a beautiful book, unfortunately too heavy to carry in the humble travel library at the bottom of my backpack.