The chirp of the cricket alone breaks the stillness. End Note 1. In the footsteps of Henry Mouhot,. For nearly three years, from until his death in Laos in , Henri Mouhot explored the inner regions of Thailand known as Siam at that time , Cambodia and Laos.
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If you have been to Luang Prabang, you probably have climbed the steps up Phousi, the hill that stands in the middle of the town. From the top, you can see not just the breadth and length of the former Lao capital and a Unesco World Heritage site but also the Mekong River a stone's throw to the west and the smaller Khan River nearby to the east. The two waterways meet just north of Phousi. I have visited this hill a couple of times.
And each time I lingered on the east-facing side of the hilltop to feast my eyes on the Khan River -- Nam Khan, as the locals call it -- which drowsily winds its way through a mountainous terrain into Luang Prabang. It's such a mesmerising sight. But that's not the sole reason. I also knew that somewhere further upstream, on the bank of Nam Khan lies the final resting place of Henri Mouhot. In the midth century, the French naturalist and explorer made expeditions to the hinterland of what is now Laos, Thailand and Cambodia.
Of course, back then there were no paved roads in these parts. Everywhere it was the wilderness teeming with wild animals and tropical diseases.
This guy was a hardcore traveller. Although Mouhot was not the first Westerner to witness the mysterious grandeur of Angkor Wat, he was the one who made it world famous. His memoirs and detailed drawings of the ancient Khmer ruins excited people across Europe about past civilisation on this side of the globe. Mouhot died less than two years after he visited Angkor Wat.
On Nov 10, , during his second journey to Luang Prabang, he succumbed to malaria. He was And he was merely 10km from his destination. I've always wanted to see the grave of the great explorer but never got the chance to do so until my recent vacation in Luang Prabang. With mountain bikes which my friend and I rented for the day at 50, kip It's around baht and Thai bank notes are accepted , we cycled eastward out of the town.
The road runs alongside Nam Khan leading up and down mild slopes past the weaving community of Ban Phanom all the way to the access road to the tomb site. Along the way, we stopped a couple of times to ask the locals to make sure we were always on the right track. Lao and Thai people speak virtually the same language so basic conversation like asking for directions should never be a problem.
However, it turned out many of the folks we approached seemed clueless when asked about Henri Mouhot's grave. One of them, a young watermelon vendor, even told us to ride back to Ban Phanom.
We later found out from a van driver that we would have got a better answer if we had asked for Than Mouhot, as he is called by the local name instead of using his full French name. An even easier keyword, added the driver, is Kaeng Noon, a section of Nam Khan which is popular among the locals as a swimming and picnic area. Kaeng Noon is just a few minutes' walk downstream from Mouhot's grave. The white tomb, which has been restored on many occasions over the past century, is on a small clearing in a dense forest.
It's here that Mouhot's epic journey ended. The guy had such a short life but he lived it to the fullest. I'm not sure if he would be happy or not if he learnt about how much Luang Prabang, Angkor Wat and Bangkok, which he had used as the base for his expeditions in Southeast Asia, have changed.
Before we got bitten by too many mosquitoes like Mouhot, my friend and I hopped back on our bikes and headed back to the town. We didn't have enough time for a dip in the clear, running water of Kaeng Noon but a nice glass of ice chocolate near the end of Nam Khan at the end of our little journey was also refreshing. Well, see you here again soon. Until then, if you have questions, news or biking insights you wish to share, please feel free to send an email to pongpetm bangkokpost.
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If you have been to Luang Prabang, you probably have climbed the steps up Phousi, the hill that stands in the middle of the town. From the top, you can see not just the breadth and length of the former Lao capital and a Unesco World Heritage site but also the Mekong River a stone's throw to the west and the smaller Khan River nearby to the east. The two waterways meet just north of Phousi. I have visited this hill a couple of times. And each time I lingered on the east-facing side of the hilltop to feast my eyes on the Khan River -- Nam Khan, as the locals call it -- which drowsily winds its way through a mountainous terrain into Luang Prabang. It's such a mesmerising sight. But that's not the sole reason.
Tomb of Henri Mouhot
Mouhot went to Russia as a young professor of philology in the s and traveled throughout Europe with his brother Charles, studying photographic techniques developed by Louis Daguerre. In the two went to England, where Henri devoted himself to zoological studies. Through Mouhot, Angkor became known to Western scholars as an important archaeological site. Mouhot, a tireless explorer, was warmly received by the sovereigns of the several kingdoms and tribes he visited. In October Mouhot was overcome by jungle fever, and he succumbed to it just a few weeks later. He was buried near Luang Prabang, where in a tomb was erected in his honour by the French. Henri Mouhot.