In Stung Treng, Lagree weighed the next steps that he and his subordinates should take. Set at the confluence of the Mekong and Se Kong River, Stung Treng with its eight hundred inhabitants was an ancient commercial centre. in 1866 its chief trade was in human beings: slaves who were brought out of the high country to the east and sold downstream to Cambodia.
On 20 July the course of the stream which had bent to the west during the passage of these rapids, turned exactly northwards and for the first time the horizon displayed some undulations of the terrain in this direction. The river had become calm again and displayed a magnificent appearance. On the left bank there were the first Laotian houses.
On the morning of the twenty-first, we observed the large confluence of the Se Cong or river of Attopeu and we passed by the point of Stung-treng, the provincial capital situated on the left bank of this river, not far from its mouth. There we met the first official representing Siam, with whom we would have to deal later.
Garnier, Vol 1: 58
The expedition’s campsite was completed and pleasantly situated at the mouth of a small arroyo on the bank of the river. It was separated from the houses of the village only by the area that forms the principal street.
The population had become accustomed very quickly to our small expedition. Supplies and procurements of all kinds were very easily obtained. The surroundings offered agreeable walks and fertile hunting sorties.
One even found some reminders of Angkor Wat: at the meeting point of the affluent and the great river itself, amidst the solitude of a small forest, there are quite remarkable towers from the Khmer period which Mr Delaporte has carefully drawn.
The bases of these towers are divided into two compartments, each of which forms a small rectangular sanctuary. Inside the wall which surrounds these towers, there are some remains of small buildings, as in the monuments of Cambodia. The frames of the doors are in sandstone, but, if the bricks that have been used display great beauty, and a great perfection in their firing and in their form, the stone is cruder, less finely joined. The ornamentation is of a duller taste.
Garnier, Vol 1: 64-65
De Lagree meets with the head monk at Stung Treng
Immediately upon his return, he (de Lagrée) asked the governor for the barges and the men that the letters from Bangkok had ordered to be provided to us in exchange for payment.
These barges had to conduct us to the waterfalls of Khon. There a transshipment would take place and barges from the next province would come to join us. These waterfalls of Khon had been indicated to us as being the largest obstacle to the navigability of the river and we were impatient to check this ourselves.
While the governor sent his orders to various villages to collect the means of transportation we needed, Mr. de Lagrée did his best to contact the elders of the country, to obtain from them all possible information on the part of the river valley for which we were headed.
He also drew a sort of map which he laughingly called the map of the future and with the aid of which he organized our stopovers, calculated the quantity of supplies we needed and on which he attempted, in short, to plan for all the eventualities, with a careful commonsense which one seldom finds in the chief of an expedition.
Garnier, Vol 1: 68-69