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Thursday, November 23, 2017

Chinas Railway for Laos:
Some diificulties reported

Update 23.11.2017

Chinas railway project in Laos is "set to be completed in 2021", reports Global Times, but the network reprots difficulties as well. Huang Hong, head of China-Laos railway commanding department under China Railway Group Ltd, says, that at mid-October "we've completed 14,925 meters in the channel excavation work", while the total length of the construction tender is 244.5 kilometers, including 45 tunnels and 99 bridges.

Xu Liping, an expert with the National Institute of International Strategy at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, underlines that the project is one between two nations, and so far not an intercontinental project extended to Thailand. But the project only makes full sense, if trains from China can go through to Thailand and down to Singapore.

And the China-Laos rail project faces some difficulties. For example, funds are not always allocated on time, and Laos lacks some of the needed construction materials like cement, Huang Hong said.

Zhao Xiang, director general of the Laos-China Railway Company, said according to Xinhuanet that in less than six months, site preparation has been completed for the construction of four stations; foundation construction of nine bridge piles have finished; 86 holes for construction of 46 tunnels have been prepared, of which 15 are key tunnels.

More than 4,400 Lao families are being forced to relocate to make way for the Lao-Chinese high-speed railway, reports, by citing Rattanamany Khounnivong, deputy minister at the Lao Ministry of Public Works and Transport and one of the heads of the construction unit. The ministry is working with the provincial task force committees to finalize compensation schemes for those who are forced to relocate, Rattanamany said. Workers have been blasting tunnels in mountains, building bridges and roads, and clearing land for stations and substations along the planned rail line in the three northern provinces of Luang Namtha, Oudomxay, and Luang Prabang since construction on the railway got under way late last December.

In Thailand construction work has been delayed for the initial 3.5-kilometre stretch of the Thai-Chinese high-speed railway in Nakhon Ratchasima, Transport Minister Arkhom Termpittayapaisith said. The project's environmental impact assessment (EIA) report is still pending approval according to Bangkok Post.

Picture by Thai PBS
Planned railway from Klang Dong to Pang Asok Station

Update 23.4.2017

Boken-Vientiane rail route auf einer größeren Karte anzeigen

China's mammoth project to construct a railway from southwest China's Yunnan Province through Laos to its capital Vientiane is advancing now. Hundreds of trucks carrying machinery and equipment for construction have entered Laos, Vientiane Times reported. Preparations are now underway to start the boring of tunnels.

The 417-km railway will have 75 tunnels with a combined length of 197.83 km and work is expected to begin before the upcoming rainy season, Deputy Minister of Public Works and Transport and Chairman of the Laos-China Railway Project Management Committee, Mr Lattanamany Khounnivong, told Vientiane Times. Officials in charge have negotiated with villagers whose land is needed for the railway and have handed over their land to Chinese contractors. Six Chinese contractors will carry out construction of the USD 5.8 billion railway, with completion slated for 2021.

China Railway No 2 Group Co Ltd is responsible for the construction of Muang Phonhong section, as we learn by chinadaily. According to this source construction of the project is scheduled for five years with investment of some 40 billion Chinese yuan (USD 5.8 billion), 70 percent of which comes from Chinese investment and the rest 30 percent from Lao side.

China Railway Group (CRG) has signed a RMB 8.1 billion (US$ 1.2 billion) agreement to build the first three sections of the Boten-Vientiane Railway Project according to

"The Nation" shows a picture of the Boten End of one tunnel, where boring has begun. Also in the province of Luang Prabang preparations are underway by China Railway No.8 Engineering Group, see pictures showing a tunnel near Luang Prabang.

Construction has begun, but questions remain. Discussions concerning loans and interest rates are ongoing between Laos and China, says Agatha Kratz, an associate policy fellow with the European Council on Foreign Relations, according to Another skeptic is Ruth Banomyong, the director of the Center for Logistics Research at Thailand’s Thammasat University. Asiasentinal quotes her: “The challenge will come when Laos will have to repay,” she warned. “Will they have sufficient revenue generated to repay? This is doubtful as the financial feasibility study done by the Chinese does not have realistic assumptions.” According to a paper by Lao government Laos gets a Chinese loan of 480 Million US Dollars at 2.3 percebt rate per year to pay for 50 Million US Dollars, while Laos has to borrow the rest at the rate of 3 percent. See the paper in Lao: ເອກະສານໂຄສະນາເຜີຍແຜ່ນຳພາແນວຄິດກ່ຽວກັບໂຄງການກໍ່ສ້າງທາງລົດໄຟລາວ-ຈີນ.

See map of the Boten-Vientiane-Railway-Line and read more technical details.

Update 10.3.2015:

China's mammoth project to construct a high-speed railway from southwest China’s Yunnan Province through Laos to its capital Vientiane is more and more in delay: The government of Laos tries to get a better loan interest rate from China, as Bangkok Post reports. Beijing has offered a US$500-million loan with a 3% interest rate for 20 years according to Vientiane Times. The estimated costs now: US$6.8 billion. The Lao and Chinese governments should be responsible for 40 percent of the total cost, while state enterprises of the two countries should jointly be responsible for sourcing the remaining 60 percent.

Delays are not new for this project. "Beijing is believed to be waiting for the Thai parliament to approve a planned £41 billion infrastructure upgrade, which will include a high-speed rail line from the Laos border to Bangkok, before signing off on the loan", reported in January 2014.

The railway risks to create a financial desaster for Laos: Laos plans to borrow £4.5 billion from Beijing to pay for its section of the railway. This is almost 90 per cent of Laos’s annual GDP of £5.2 billion. The loan will make Laos the world’s fourth most-indebted nation after Japan, Zimbabwe and Greece - "trouble for a poor country", wrote The Economist. Read also: China's commercial 'takeover' of Laos by Nikkei Asian Review.

But right now the political crisis in Thailand hinders the Thai government to move on with the project for the highspeed-rail-link between Bangkok and Vientiane. On March 12 Thailands Constitution Court ruled, that the government's legislative bill to empower the Finance Ministry to seek two trillion baht in loans for infrastructure development projects is unconstitutional, as Bangkok Post reports. This means delay for high-speed train lines to Chiang Mai, Rayong, Nong Khai (border to Vientiane in Laos) and Padang Besar, on the Malaysian border.

See a presentation of the railway project from Boten to Vientiane on The planned railway will have a standard-gauge track, and a maximum speed of 160km/h, less than the 200km/h initially planned, as The Nation reported. See also this video showing the planned railwa line.
The line will require 76 tunnels and 154 bridges, including two across the Mekong River, and 31 stations. These stations have been named until now: Boten, Ban Na Thong, Ban Hua Nam, Muang Xai, Ban Na Khok Tay, Huoi Phou Lai, Luang Prabang, Muong Xieng Ngeun, Ban Sen, Kasi, Ban Bua Pheouk, Ban Pha Tang, Vang Vieng, Ban Vang Mon, Ban Mang Khi, Ban Hin Heup, Phonh Hong, Ban Sakha, Ban Phonh Sung, Vientiane Neua and Vientiane Tay.
Villages will have to be relocated, if the railway is constructed, as South China Moring Post writes.

The railway project ist expected to draw an estimated 20000 Chinese construction workers into Laos. In the northern province of Oudomxay Chinese residents already make up around 15 per cent of the population of 30,000. "Chinese-owned hotels, shops and restaurants line the roads and street signs are in both Laotian and Mandarin", reports Chinese companies are already investing across Laos in everything from rubber and banana plantations to construction, hydroelectric and mining projects. The railway project increases fears. "I think if the Chinese are willing to provide the money, then they're doing it for a number of reasons," says Tristan Knowles, a director at Economists at Large, a Melbourne, Australia-based think tank. "You can flood the market in Laos with Chinese goods, especially agricultural products. The meat and livestock industries in Laos may not be able to compete unless they modernise in the time it takes to build the railway." Chinese companies own an increasing number of the rubber plantations that are the mainstay of northwest Laos’ economy, reports South China Morning Post. And even in Vientiane there are more and more shops run by Chinese people. Read more in the book Vientiane: Transformations of a Lao Landscape by Marc Askew,Colin Long adn William Logan.

A Chinese-invested cement factory was inaugurated in December 2015 in Khammouane Province, expected to serve the construction of China-Laos railway project. The Jixiang cement factory, with an investment of 120 million U.S. dollars, is a BOT (Build, Operate and Transfer) project signed between China's Yunnan Provincial Energy Investment Group and Lao Ministry of Planning and Investment in March 2012. A representative of China's Yunnan Provincial Energy Investment Group told Xinhua that the designed capacity of the factory is 1 million ton a year, accounting for 20 percent of Laos' total cement production capacity.

China has announced that it will invest US$31.4 billion in the Mengla economic zone in Yunnan province, which shares a border with Luang Namtha and Phongsaly provinces in northern Laos. In September 2015 the governments of Laos and China signed a cooperation agreement to establish an economic cooperation zone in the Boten-Mohan border area, aiming to boost trade, investment and tourism in the region as writes. Construction started on a railway linking Yuxi to Mohan in August and preparations for Mengla airport are underway. On the Lao territory, Boten is currently designated as a specific economic zone. The zone is being developed by two Chinese companies – Yunnan Hai Cheng Industrial Group Stock Co., Ltd and Hong Kong Fuk Hing Travel Entertainment Group Ltd with a concession period of 99 years. The Chinese developers have announced that they will focus on four mega projects in the zone including a duty free center, bus station complex, warehousing and a resort that shall feature a large natural marsh, hotel, meeting hall and other relaxing places.

Chinese influence is also very apparent in Muang Xay, the capital of Oudomxay Province. Hotel Sheng Chang was established in early 2014 with a big supermarket, a casino and a restaurant. Chinese shops and advertisements fully span both sides of the road in Muang Xay. "One can find small and middle-sized Chinese auto repair shops, grocery stores, hardware stores, computer shops, guest houses, and, of course, restaurants", notes

Read earlier story:
Chinese money brings big change: A railway from the North of Laos to Vientiane and Thailand

Real also:
China in Laos: Is There Cause For Worry?

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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Chinas Railway for Laos: From Boten to Vientiane - The Maps

Construction work for the railway from Chinas border in Boten to Vientiane, the capital city of Laos, has started. Tunnel boring is underway at Luang Namtha as well as near Luang Prabang, where China Railway No.8 Engineering Group is working. And there are reports from a construction site in Phonhong near Vientiane, where China Railway No. 2 Group Co., Ltd is responsible for the construction of Muang Phonhong station. Here we show the maps of the route of this railway that have been published so far.

Line from border between Laos and China at Boten (Map 1)

Detail of Line at Boten (Map2)

(Map 3)

Line west of Oudomsay airport (Map 4)

Line south of Oudomsay (Map 5)

Line near Luang Prabang (Map 6)

Line south of Luang Prabang< (Map 7)br> The line crosses N13 north of Nam Ngum Lake, south of Vang Vieng (Map 8)

The line follows N13 west of Nam Ngum Lake (Map 9)

North of Vientiane the line follows N13 national road (Map 10)

The line crosses the Mekong and the border to Thailand at Nong Khai, Vientiane and its airport at the left (Map 11)

Soure of the maps: 新建铁路磨丁至万象线线路平 Boten Vientiane Railway Line

See also this map by

Planned is an electrified single track (standard track gauge) with a distance of 427,7 km. There will be 162 bridges with a total distance of 68.093 km, 72 tunnels with the distance of 183.978 km. Maximum speed for cargo will be 120 kph, maximum speed for passenger trains from Boten to Vang Vieng will be 160 kph, from Vang Vieng to Vientiane capital 200 kph. 33 stations are planned, but first only 21 stations will be built. These will allow trains passing each other. 11 stations will offer passenger services.

Two major bridges are planned in Luang Prabang area: Mekhong 1 Bridge (其中湄公河1号特大桥) North of Luang Prabang (1220 meters)
Mekhong 2 Bridge (湄公河2号特大桥桥长) South of Luang Prabang (1436 meters)
Luang Prabang station will be on Xiang Maen bank, not Luang Phrabang bank, to avoid a conflict with the protection of the old city of Luang Prabng by Unesco World Heritage. It will allow the connection with Xayabouri and Thailand via Muang Ngoen and Phoo Doo along with Xanakham.

7 major tunnels are planned:
Lao - China Friendship tunnel (友谊隧道, 9,592 meters, 2430 meter on Lao side of border while the rest on Chinese side.
Kong Lang tunnel (空琅村隧道, 8150 meter)
Wa Nu Mountain (努瓦山隧道, 8185 meter)
Phu Kluea (福格村隧道, 8880 meter)
Ka (卡村隧道, 8005 meter)
Sen tunnel (森村隧道, 9405 meter)
La Meng tunnel (拉孟山隧道, 8055 meter)

Planned railway stations:

Boten (Luang Namtha Province)
Ban Natuay ບ້ານນາທົ່ງ cargo loading station (Luang Namtha Province)
Muang Xai ເມືອງໄຊ (Oudomxay)
Luang Prabang ຫລວງພຣະບາງ
Xiengngeun ຊຽງເງີນ
Vang Vieng ວັງວຽງ
Muang Phonhong (Vientiane Province)
Ban Saka ສະຂ່າ
Ban Phonsoung ໂພນສູງ
Vieng Chan Neua (Vientiane) ວຽງຈັນເຫນືອ

According to the plan, there will be 11 stations for passenger use. 3 will be built in Oudomxay's Namor, Xay and Nga districts. 2 more stations will be built in Luang Prabang and Xieng-ngeun districts in Luang Prabang province. 3 will be constructed in Kasy, Vangvieng and Phonhong districts in Vientiane province and the main station will be in Vientiane. A goods transport depot will also be built in Vientiane.

More details here.

The total project cost is estimated at 38.7 billion yuan (over USD 6 billion), which is about 90.6 million yuan (approx. USD 14 million) per kilometre. The Lao government has obtained a loan of about USD 480 million from China to pay its share of the investment cost. Somsavat Lengsavad, Laotian deputy prime minister, said the Chinese government has earlier offered Laos a loan with a three-percent interest rate, adding that Laotian government also asked the Chinese government to reduce the rate. He did not mention what the agreed-upon interest rate was. Laos will back the loan with five of its potash mines. Somsavat said after calculation, Laos has determined that it will be able to pay it back to China within five years instead of 30 years as Laos has five mines.

Construction contracts were awarded as follows:
1. Boten - Meuang Xay (Oudomxay, 88.65 km): China Railway No.5 Engineering Group (owned by China Railway Group Limited)
2. Meuang Xay (Oudomxay) - Nam Seu Bridge (68.8 km, including Mueang Xai station yard): China Railway International Group (owned by China Railway Group Limited)
3. Nam Seu Bridge - Phou Sanen Hill (65.6 km, including Bridge across Sue river): China Railway Baju Group Company (owned by China Railway Group Limited)
4. Phou Sanen Hill - Ban Pa Village (61.49 km): Sinohydro Group
5. Ban Pa Village - Phonhong (79.5 km): Power Construction Corporation of China
6. Phonhong - Vientiane (65.7 km, (including Phone Hong station yard): China Railway Erju Co., Ltd (owned by China Railway Group Limited)

See also Map China Laos Railway

See video of the line

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Saturday, February 27, 2016

A Feasability Study for a Railway from Laos to Vietnam

A feasibility study for a railway linking Vientiane with Vung Ang seaport in Vietnam has begun, reports Thai PBS. The study of the 550km-long rail line is set to take about two years to complete, scheduled from December 2015 to December 2017. The study is being conducted with a US$3 million grant from Korea International Cooperation Agency (KOICA). The project’s section in Laos will be about 450 km long, while the section in Vietnam was reported to be about 119 km long. The Vientiane–Thakhaek–Muya rail project is technically known as the A3 rail project.

As Vientiane Times reports, the Vientiane-Muya-Railway should link with the planned Vientiane-Boten-Railway. And there are more projects: In 2012, the Lao government signed an agreement with a Malaysian investor, Giant Rail Company Limited, to develop the Savan-Lao Bao rail project linking central Savannakhet province of Laos with the Laos-Vietnam Dansavan-Lao Bao border gate over a distance of about 220km. This project is still in the preparation stage for construction. In addition, an initial survey was completed on the Vientiane-Pakxe-Chongmek project some 452 km in length connecting Vangtao-Chongmek Lao-Thai border checkpoint in the southern province of Champassak with the Savan-Lao Bao railway project.

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

Bolaven Plateau: Waterfalls everywhere -
and a Zip-Line system in the Jungle

See the locations on Bolevean Plateau Google Map

Tadhang Waterfall:

Picture Tozbee

Ban Tad Lo:

Picture Tozbee

Tad Lo Waterfall:

Picture Tozbee

Picture La Isla Magica

Sayse Guesthouse & Resort:

Tad Fane

Tad Fane Resort
: From 32 USD. From here you look at the twin waterfall Tad Fane.

Picture ruben i

Tham Champee

Near Tad Fane this waterfall is formend by Houay Champi River, falling down 15 metres. There are rafts to get to the falls.

Tad Yeuang

Not far from Tad Fane. See picture by dukhao

Sihom Plantation: A farm for coffee, pepper, some fruits and Sihom Sabai Guesthouse. Basic rooms. Read more on Good review on

Tree Top Explorer at Jungle Hotel: You discover a system of zip-lines starting from platforms high in the trees. With the zip-line you "fly" over cliffs, waterfalls and the green roof of the forest in Dong Hua Sao National Park. You trek in pristine forest and through coffee plantations or discover the forest from a sky-high walkway. The camp has electricity generated by the waterfall. Jungle Hotel Paksong is a tiny village in the midst of dense forest with six tree houses and a restaurant. Some of the houses are up to more than 20 m above the ground. Beds and mosquito nets are there, but no air-con or fridge. Ban Nongluang is a small farming village. From here reaching the zip-line complex and campsite requires another few kilometer trek on a trail inside the Dong Hua Sao National Park. You wear your own baggage, but you can also organize a villager, who transports your baggage. Read the reviews on carefully. There are a lot of tips, what you can await and what not. Sww this video on youtube. Then read Ziplines in the jungle: a high-wire act in Laos. See Facebook Page. Tree Top Explorer is owned and managed by Lao-based Green Discovery Tours.

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Sunday, August 24, 2014

Xayaburi Dam and Don Sahong Dam in Mekong
River divide Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

See the location on Xayaburi Dam and Don Sahong Dam Google Map

Picture by International Rivers
Mekong River today at Xayaburi: no dam yet, but construction has begun:

Picture by International Rivers

Picture by International Rivers

There has been no dam today in the Mekong River between the Golden Triangle (Northern Thailand) and the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam. But now Laos is on the way to change this: Construction works for Xayaburi Dam have progressed. And a project for Don Sahong Dam in the Si Phan Don area in southern Laos has been launched. There is the fear, that these dam projects may hit the livelihood of tens of millions of people living along the Mekong. Therefore this blog starts a documentation about what is happening.

Laos has suspended construction of its controversial Don Sahong hydropower dam on the Mekong River. This has been said by Lao ambassador Prasith Sayasith during a meeting with Cambodian Deputy Prime Minister Hor Namhong, as Radio Free Asia reports.

Construction of the Xayaburi Hydro-power plant, the first dam is now 23% complete.
Lao media report this according to Bangkok Post. It is "on track to be operational in 2019 as planned," the Vientiane Times reported. 39 Organizations based in Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Australia have issued one more Plea to Halt Xayaburi Dam in Laos as Chiangrai Times reports.

Protest against Don Sahong Dam in Si Phan Don
About 600 people are scheduled on Saturday to start a four-day protest that will include marches and boat trips to call for construction of the controversial Don Sahong dam on the Cambodian-Lao border to be halted, reports The Cambodia Daily. The highly sensitive and critically endangered freshwater dolphins in this area will likely be extinct if dams such as the Don Sahong go ahead, the WWF has said. See also video by WWF.

3.10.2013: The Government of Laos notifies the Mekong River Commission of its intention to construct the Don Sahong Dam. In June 2008 the Malaysian Mega First Corporation Berhad (70 percent of the shares) had formed a joint venture with IJM Corporation (30 percent) for the project development. The Don Sahong Dam is a Run-of-the-river hydroelectricity facility. It would be located at the downstream end of the Hou Sahong channel between Don Sahong and Don Sadam islands. The dam's height would be between 30 and 32 metres. It would have a capacity of 260 MW. Most of the produced electricity would be exported to Thailand and Cambodia. Many independent fisheries experts fear that the dam would have a serious impact on fish migration as the channel is the only one within the Khone Falls complex that is passable to migratory fishes in the dry-season, and it is the major migration channel year-round. There is grave concern among environmentalists that the dam will jeopardise fish catches in Cambodia's Tonle Sap lake, as The Nation reports. Read background on

Vietnam and Cambodia tell Laos to stop $3.5bn Mekong River dam project
Vietnam urged Laos to halt construction of a $3.5bn (£2.2bn) hydropower dam on Mekong River pending further study. The Mekong River commission (MRC), made up of member states Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand, held a three-day meeting in northern Laos to discuss river development projects. The dam in northern Laos, the first of 11 planned for the lower Mekong River, threatens the livelihood of tens of millions who depend on the river's aquatic resources, activists say. Read more on

8.12.2012: Xayaboury project differs from other dams
The Xayaboury hydropower project differs significantly from earlier hydropower projects in the region. Director General of the Department of Energy Policy and Planning, Dr Daovong Phonekeo, says that the Xayaboury dam will be the first run-of-river scheme to be built on the Mekong River and the first in Laos. In a run-of-river scheme there is no high dam storing enormous amounts of water. The water is kept within the river’s course and the level is raised only minimally to allow for the passage of ships and fish migration. As no reservoir is created, the daily flow of water through the dam is used for power generation throughout the year. The river’s hydrology, or seasonal flows, will continue as normal because the same volume of water that flows upstream will flow downstream. Fish passage and sediment flushing systems designed for the Xayaboury dam are based on natural river conditions. “With respect to Xayaboury, we have conducted thorough and detailed studies to improve fish passage in a number of ways and we have incorporated sediment flushing systems and other mitigation measures as well,” Dr Daovong said. Based on recommendations from independent consultants Poyry and Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, the fish ladder has been extended to ensure the maximum number of fish species will be able to pass through the dam. In addition, the navigation locks will function as a fish lift, an additional fish tunnel will be built and fish-friendly turbines are to be used. Meanwhile a fish hatching station will complement the lift, ladder and tunnel to ensure that any endangered fish species survive. Sediment transport through the Xayaboury dam has been designed in accordance with recommendations from Compagnie Nationale du Rhone, which has been operating 19 run-of-river hydropower stations on the Rhone River for the last 50 years. There are are many successful examples of run-of-river or “low-head” dams especially in Europe. The Rheinfelden power plant, 25 km east of Basel, Switzerland, harnesses the power of the Rhine River. The Fredenau hydroplant near Vienna, Austria, is the latest and largest hydropower facility to be built on the Danube River. Both are state-of-the-art and feature effective fish passage facilities. Read more on Vientiane Times.

The Chinese-made Stung Atay dam in Cambodia collapses while under construction.
The Associated Press reports that the Saturday collapse occurred at the Stung Atay Hydroelectric Project, a $255-million dollar dam on the Atay river, funded by the Chinese state-owned China Datang Corporation and situated in Cambodia’s Cardamom Mountains. The construction of the 120 megawatt Stung Atay hydropower dam began in 2008 and is scheduled to be completed in May 2013. Read more on Living in Phnom Penh.

25.11.12: Vientiane says sorry for broken Xayaburi ground
Bhuddhist monks led almsgiving and chanting in the Lao valley, where the dam will soon form a concrete barrier across the mainstream Mekong River. "Normally, before we start blasting the riverbed, the Lao tradition is to ask the spirits in the area to forgive us for disturbing the river," Viraphonh Viravong, Laos' Vice-Minister of Resources and Mining, said. The Thai company Ch Karnchang will develop and co-own the dam with the Lao government. The Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (Egat) has secured a 28-year deal to purchase 90% of power generated by the dam. Bangkok Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Siam Commercial Bank, Krung Thai Bank, Tisco Bank and the Export-Import Bank of Thailand are financing the dam. The Xayaburi dam will be 40 metres high and 800 metres across, with no reservoirs. Read more on Bangkok Post. And read Media Kit on the Xayaburi Dam by

Picture by International Rivers
Thai villagers protest against Xayaburi dam during Asia Europe Summit in Vientiane on 5 November 2012.

Picture by International Rivers
Lao Theung women of Ban Huay Song are panning for gold near Kaeng Luang. The income from this is meager, but the construction of Xayaburi Dam nearby shall make it vanish forever.

Questions over China dams
Some questions remain about whether hydro dams on the upper Mekong River in China exacerbated conditions during Cambodia's devastating drought of 2010, environmental groups say, as China's dam program powers ahead. Last month the first power-generating unit was switched on at China's giant 262-metre tall Nuozhadu hydroelectric dam, which will be the largest on the river when completed in 2014. Research showed "water flow in the river's China section accounted for only 13.5 per cent of the river's total, making the country's hydropower development have little impact downstream", China Daily said. Ame Trandem, Southeast Asia program director for International Rivers, said, however, that China's section of the Mekong, known in that country as the Lancang River, provided as much as 50 per cent of the river's total water flow during the dry season. Read more on Phnom Penh Post.

Thai petition against Xayaburi dam
A conservation group submitted a petition with more than 9,000 signatures from people opposed to a controversial dam on the Mekong River to Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra yesterday, demanding the Thai government cease support for the Xayaburi Dam. Read the news and comments.

Map of Mekong dam projects

Portland State University researchers expose environmental costs of building Mekong River dams:
Their study also put new dollar signs on the potential cost to the environment and traditional fisheries — figuring the net economic impact of a string of electricity-producing dams could range from a gain of $33 billion to a loss of $274 billion.

China has built dams:
Meanwhile China has been building a series of dams on the upper Mekong especially in Yunnan province. They say that the dams in Yunnan will have a positive environmental impact and will help control flooding in the downstream. However, the downstream countries have expressed that the dams will severely restrict the migration of fish and will have drastic impacts on the hydrological flow of the river. (..) China has never joined Mekong River Commission and it still refuses to join.

New dam project underway in Laos’ Luang Prabang province:
Construction of a 308-million-dollar hydropower dam on the Khan River in Laos’ Luang Prabang province is 15 per cent completed and should be operational by 2015, reports said Wednesday. A total investment of about 2.4 trillion kip (308 million dollars), of which 95 percent had been borrowed from the Exim Bank of China. China’s Sinohydro Company is handling construction of the dam, which will be 136 meters high and 365 meters long, creating a reservoir of 30.5 square kilometers with a capacity to store 686 million cubic meters of water, the newspaper reported.

Don’t dream the Xayaburi hydropower project is over. It’s not dead yet. Laos keeps its hydropower hopes alive:
The agreement to further study the dam constitutes a time-buying tactic for more negotiations among the four countries. As long as the project is not shot down, there is a chance it will go ahead. The message from Laos to the other three countries in the meeting has given an open door for Vientiane to keep on fighting for it. (Bangkok Post)

Thai Utility Commits to Purchase Power from Xayaburi Dam: Thai Senators are investigating whether the Electricity Generating Authority of Thailand (EGAT) violated the Thai government’s instructions by signing an agreement to purchase power from the controversial Xayaburi Dam before it is approved by the Mekong River Commission’s member governments. Read more on

Xayaburi Dam Stopped for Now
: Environmentalists appear to have been handed a second rare victory in Southeast Asia with Thursday’s decision by the Mekong River Commission Council to delay for an uncertain period the construction of the Xayaburi Dam on the Mekong River 100 km. inside Laos. The council, comprising water and environment ministers from Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, agreed at a meeting in Siem Riep, Cambodia, to seek international support to produce a more complete study of the dam. However, the Xayaburi Dam, 810 meters wide and 32 meters high, could well be harder to stop although at least 263 NGOs from 51 countries and thousands of people in the area have urged that it be cancelled. Its primary objective is to generate foreign exchange earnings for financing socio-economic development in Laos. Preliminary construction has already begun, with access roads and the dam foundation already in place, according to Ame Trandem, the Thailand representative for the Berkeley, Calif.-based Save the Rivers environmental group. Read more on

Cambodia opens Kampot Hydro Dam
Energy-starved Cambodia on Wednesday opened Kamchay dam, the country's largest hydropower dam to date, a multi-million dollar Chinese-funded project, which cost more than $280 million, in southern Kampot province. US-based campaigners International Rivers said the Kamchay dam had destroyed hundreds of hectares of forest and farmland and warned it would have a negative impact on fisheries and on local people's livelihoods. Read more on AFP. The dam is invested and constructed by the Sinohydro Corporation. The project is a concessional contract of a 44-year build- operate-transfer (BOT) with Cambodian government. Of the period, 4 years for construction and 40 years for operations, it said, adding the electricity is sold to the state-owned Electricity of Cambodia. The Kamchay hydroelectric dam is one of the five dams with a total capacity of 915 megawatts invested by China in the total investments of 1.6 billion U.S. dollars. The other four dams being constructed are Kirirom III hydropower dam with the capacity of 18 megawatts, Tatay river hydropower dam with the capacity of 246 megawatts, Atay hydropower dam of 120 megawatts and Russei Chrum Krom with the capacity of 338 megawatts, according to the reports of Cambodia’s Ministry of Industry, Mine and Energy. Read more on Living in Phnom Penh.

Thailand’s Role in the Xayaburi Dam: Not only does Thailand plan to purchase 95% of the dam’s electricity, but Thai companies are building the dam and four Thai banks will finance the project. Without Thailand’s help, the Xayaburi Dam would not exist. Read more on

In Laos, a tale of two dams: In an isolated valley in central Laos where people live mostly in wooden stilt homes accessed by dirt roads, the thick concrete slabs and towering mechanical apparatuses of the Nam Theun 2 dam stand at odds with their surroundings. The Laos government and World Bank pledged to resituate displaced families with enough farmland and credit that their yearly income would double — a benchmark that has nearly been reached, they say — and many villagers were given a say in the process, according to developers.
“We realize it’s much cheaper to develop [on] a larger scale and use the export earnings to subsidize rural electrification,” said Viraphonh Viravong, director of the Laos Department of Electricity and the government’s point-person for the Xayaburi dam. “That’s why the project started to get bigger and bigger.”
Plentiful rivers, mountains and rainfall collectively give Laos high hydropower potential, and its more industrialized neighbors Vietnam and Thailand are eager buyers of electricity; the government has already pledged to sell 95 percent of the electricity generated by the Xayaburi dam to Thailand. Read more on

Decision Looms for Laos Dam, but Impact Is Unclear: The news media in Vietnam, which normally hew to the government’s line, have been unusually critical of the Xayaburi dam project. Farmers in the Mekong Delta fear that an accumulation of dams on the river could reduce the volume of water that reaches Vietnam, exacerbating the problem of saltwater seeping into farming areas from the sea. The plan calls for a generating capacity of 1,285 megawatts, enough to power a small or medium-size city. The dam, which is situated between steep hills and will span a distance of about eight football fields, will have the same impact as a “natural waterfall,” the government said in response to the report by the Mekong River Commission. The government says it plans to become “the battery” of Asia with a total of 70 hydroelectric projects, 10 of which are already in operation. Read more on

Xayaburi dam work begins on sly: An investigation by the Bangkok Post Sunday which visited the area surrounding the Xayaburi dam on the Lower Mekong River last week found major road works under construction and villagers preparing to be relocated. At Ban Talan, villagers said Lao authorities had come to see them. They were told they would have to move but no date was specified. The villagers said they were promised new concrete houses allotted by the government on a nearby mountain.(Bangkok Post)

The Mekong River: To dam or not to dam? Xayaburi dam is the first of 12 proposed hydropower dams on the Mekong. The dams “will have profound negative consequences for people, agriculture, fisheries, and riverine ecology,” said Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute research associate Tyson Roberts, who has studied Mekong fishes for over 40 years. The Mekong harbors a rich diversity of animal species such as the critically endangered Mekong giant catfish and Irrawaddy dolphin. With an estimated annual harvest of approximately 2.2 million tons of fish, the Mekong also ranks as the world’s largest inland fishery and impacts the livelihoods of the nearly 30 million people who live within 10 miles of its lower stretches. Up to 70 percent of fish species in the Mekong migrate long distances to feed and spawn, and dams would both physically block their upstream journey as well as change the environmental signals that trigger migration, Eric Baran explained in a paper published in the environmental journal AMBIO last June. Altering the Mekong’s flow could have a disastrous effect on agriculture. Any change in sediments and nutrients transported by the river can change rice yields, Philippe Cacot explained. Manipulating the river’s flow could also allow for salt-water intrusion in the Delta, another major threat to agriculture. (

Dammed and dying: The Mekong and its communities face a bleak future
One of the world's greatest rivers has been reduced to a trickle in places by a series of giant Chinese dams. The Mekong's downstream countries, which are almost completely dependent on the river and its tributaries for food, water and transport, fear that China's plans for a further six major dams on the river could be disastrous. The Manwan hydroelectric dam across the upper Mekong, finished in 1996, has been frequently blamed by Thailand and other countries for reduced fishing and also for causing flash floods when water is released unpredictably. A second giant dam, at Dachaoshan, is almost complete but is said to be already affecting the river flow, and a third is due for completion in 2012. Read more on

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Lao top Government Officials killed by Plane Crash

A plane carrying top senior Laotian government officials crashed Saturday morning, leaving at least four people dead, reports Thomas Fuller. Killed were the deputy prime minister, defence minister and member of Politburo, Douangchay Phichit, and Thongbane Sengaphone, the minister of public security, the two most powerful people in the security apparatus. The governor of Vientiane province, Soukanh Mahalath, and Cheuang Sombounkhanh, secretariat of the Lao People's Revolutionary Party's Central Committee and chairman of the Propaganda Training Committee, were was also killed in the crash according to The plane was a Russian-made Antonov AN-74TK300, the crash happened near Nadee village in Paek district of Xiengkouang province according to KPL, the Lao News Agency, that published pictures. This was west of the Xiangkhouang airport and not far from the Plain of Jars. More pictures are shown on site Lao Pictures on Facebook.

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Monday, March 24, 2014

Luang Nam Tha: Jungle Trekkings, Homestays with Hilltribe People and Rivertrips

See the locations on Luang Nam Tha Google Map

See Map of Luang Namtha Province, Map of Luang Nam Tha Town and Map of Luang Nam Tha environs

Luang Nam Tha

Picture by Sergi Hill
Picture by from the north country

Picture by Le photo à Go-Go

Picture by Sergi Hill

Picture by Pondspider
Valley near Luang Nam Tha

Luang Nam Tha in the mountains of northern Laos counts around 3500 inhabitants. The old town lies near the airport, the new town 6 km apart in the north. Here you find most guesthouses and tour agencies. It's a starting point for trekkings to the hilltribes. Two companies offer tours: Luang Namtha Tourism Department (behind the nightmarket) and Green Discovery.

What can you do here? For example visit Luang Namtha’s morning market, where people from Luang Namtha and nearby villages sell and buy fruits, vegetables (spring onion, coriander and cabbages), jungle meat and junge plants (read more).
The nightmarket is the spot, were people hang out in the night. It opens from 5 pm. Here you can try traditional dishes with vegetables, herbs and spices from the jungle (read more).
You can go kajaking on Nam Tha River and visit Lanten, Khmu, Khmu Rok, Tai Dam or Tai Lue villages (read more). Visit the Luang Namtha Museum, rent a bicycle or a mountain bike at one of the guesthouses, shop for handicrafts, explore the waterfall at Ban Nam Dee, see Wat Luang Kone (7 km from cizy center), Wat Ban Vieng Tai or That Phoum Phouk (Phoum Phouk Pagoda), go for guided boat trips on Nam Ha River and along Nam Ha Protected Area (with tigers, bears, elephants and wild buffalos) or visit the markets (one near the bus station and one near the airport). Read more about the Nam Ha Protected Area. Read more about things to see and do in Luang Nam Tha. You gan also go trekking into the jungle-mountains and visit villages of Akha, Khmu and Yao (Dzao) people, especially to Luang Nam Tha National Protected Area.

There are several herbal saunas in Luang Namtha, the most popular being the one next to the Panda Restaurant.

Picture by intothegreen
At Luang Nam Tha nightmarket

Picture by John Pavelka
That Phum Phuk

Picture by Sergi Hill

Where to stay in Luang Nam Tha

Adounsiri Guesthouse: Mixed reviews von Good review on

Anolak Guesthouse: From 6-12 USD.

The Boat Landing Guesthouse and Restaurant From 40 USD. At Nam Tha River, outside the town. Older bungalows, rooms are described as basic by reviewers on In the evening it is difficult to get a tuktuk from the town to the guesthouse.

Picture by John Pavelka

Picture by John Pavelka

Dokchampa Hotel: Chinese hotel in the centre of Luang Namtha, on the main street.Quite good reviews on

Hongching Hotel:

Khamking Guesthouse: Near nightmarket, therefore a bit noisy according to a reviewer on

King Mala Guest House:

Luang Namtha Guesthouse:

Manychane Guesthouse:

Nam Tha Riverside Guesthouse:

Picture by crosby_cj

Shenjeuter Guesthouse:

Sangouanchai Guesthouse:

Song Laos Guesthouse:

The Phou lu III Guest House: Bungalows with balconies, with thin walls according to reviews on, which are quite good.

Toulasith Guesthouse: From 80 000 Kip. Good reviews on

Homestays: You can book tours with homestay for one night. Homestay in Ban Vieng Neua with Tai Youn people; homestay in Ban Chaleurnsouk with Khmu people; homestay in Ban Nam Dee with Akha people.

Villa Guesthouse:

Zuela Guesthouse: Very good reviews on See video on

Eat in Luang Nam Tha

Forest Retreat Bamboo Lounge:

How to arrive in Luang Nam Tha

By airplane: Lao Airlines flies from Vientiane to Luang Nam Tha.

Boat Pak Tha - Luang Nam Tha: During two days you travel in an open boat along Nam Tha river where large sections can only be reached by boat, past riverside villages of the Khmu and Leu ethnic people. On the way you pass a Buddha image in a cliff face. You'll stay in the village of the boatsmen. Before you arrange your boat trip in Pak Tha you should know, that most boatmen on the lower Namtha will only go as far as Muang Nalae. This because they are not experienced in navigating the rapids between Nalae and Namtha. Also during the low water months (Feb- May) the boats may only run as far as Nalae. But there you find a bus to Luang Nam Tha or boatsmen, who go up with you. Read more about the boatmen and the prices on and on Luang Namtha Guide.

Picture by John Pavelka
Nam Tha River

Picture by Mat Honan

Picture by immu

Bus: Bus to Muang Sing takes 2 hours. Songthaews going in the morning. See bustimetables for Luang Nam Tha province. Bus to Huay Xai needs around 4 hours, to Luang Prabang between 8 and 12 hours, There are buses to Bokeo International bus station in HUay Xai, from where you cross the Mekong by the new Friendship Bridge and go on to Chiang Rai or Chiang Nai by Vip buses (read more). There are also buses from Luang Nam Tha via Boten to Mengla and to Jinghong (both (Yunnan province in China).

Akha Village Ban Nam Hee

Situated at the confluence of the Nam Hee and the Nam Fa. See picture of a family. Nam Hee is the name of a small river that flows to the Nam Fa that flows to the Mekong. An interesting story about the gates on the way to the village has been written by Lao Bumpkin. The gates are about keeping the spirits out. Nam Nam Hee ist also mentioned on

Picture by johntrathome
Spirit houses

Picture by Pondspider
Akha women, returning from the market

Picture by Pondspider
Looking up the Akha village

Picture by Pondspider
Looking down to the Akha Village

Picture by John Pavelka

Nalan Tai Khmu village:

Picture by Alexandra Moss
Guestroom at the Khmu village

Picture by Alexandra Moss

Picture by Alexandra Moss

Vieng Phouka Trekking Centre

Vieng Phoukha Guide Service Unit, and supported by the EU. The guide unit offers
treks to ethnic Khmu, Lahu, Akha and Tai Lue villages. Mountain Guesthouse:
Map of Vieng Phouka

Buses from Luang Prabang drop you off at Vieng Poukha.
Buses from Luang Nam Tha and Huayxai pass through Vieng Phoukha

Muang Sing

Muang Sing Historical Centre
Map of Muang Sing town
Map of Muang Sing environs
In Muang Sing District, treks to Akha, Hmong and Tai Lue villages are offered by
the Muang Sing Guide Association.

Chantimieng Guesthouse: From the balcony you overlook the rice paddies. Guite good reviews on

Trekking adresses: Trekking around Luang Nam Tha with Green Discovery. Forest Retreat Laos.

See Luang Nam Tha on Youtube.

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