The village of Xieng Khong is surrounded by a pit and a strong fence; a little stream divides it into two parts and the shores are connected by a bamboo bridge more picturesque than solid. The forest which surrounds the village is furrowed by exceedingly large tracks, they are pretty much the roads. Nevertheless, none of the light Laotian carts from the south are to be seen here. A few elephants hauling heavy pieces of teak wood begin to make an appearance, the convoys of food carriers cross infrequently and casually, going backwards and forwards. One of these trails disappears in the direction of the south-east. It is the road to Xieng Mai, a town which is a ten or twelve day walk away.