Kemarat – 30th January 1867


From Keng Kanien to Kémarat, the bed of the river is strewn with thousands of rocks of all shapes and sizes. The men were continually in the water and hardly ever stopped pushing, lifting or carrying the barge. Nevertheless, the rocks slowly thinned out and the current greatly slowed down until the movement when the Mekong, again a superb river, ran filled to its edges in its vast bed. Then we reached the confluence of another beautiful wide river, the Se Banghien, and a few minutes later we landed on the opposite bank, at the foot of the Kémarat.

Barely was I on the shore than I saw a Laotian coming to meet me, his distinguished bearing and his large entourage indicating that he was an important man. Big, well-built, draped in Roman style with a piece of cloth that covered the whole upper part of his body, he had a gait that is rare in Laos and a truly remarkable face: a high forehead, a straight nose, big, beautiful eyes though a little slanted, well-designed lips, a face adorned with a splendid white beard which he allowed to float in the wind by throwing his head back.

This person approached without embarrassment and offered me a very polite compliment. I answered his politeness with a dignified response and our acquaintance was immediately made. My new friend then conducted us to a sala prepared to receive the whole expedition and he soon left us to ourselves, having brought the objects and supplies which we needed.

Finally, on the morning of 30 January, I was informed that the falangs were approaching and, almost at the same time, I noticed the column of heavy elephants advancing with their measured tread. The mahouts, sitting on their powerful heads, urged them on and hit them on their heavy skins with some kind of iron hook.

The retinue made a dazzling entry amidst the assembled population. Dr. Joubert was in front, carrying his dog, his poor, thin, sick Fox, in his arms. Then came Dr. Thorel and Mr. de Carné, rifles over their shoulders. Our Annamites and our Tagals marched happily on foot, their bags and rifles on their backs. We had three sick people reclining in the howdahs. Finally, the only remaining Frenchman of the escort Moëllo, a courageous and loyal Breton, preceded Commander de Lagrée. The latter appeared to be escorted by the authorities of Kémarat who had met him some distance away from the entrance to the town to pay homage. We exchanged cordial handshakes and we quickly told one another of the principal events of our separate travels.

Garnier, Vol 1: 204 – 205