Journeys to Keng Tung

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March 4th

March 4th.—Hai Tuk to camp in the hills. For the first 8 miles up the valley of the Me Hok river, a fine broad stream, 120 feet wide and 3 feet deep, with a strong current flowing south-south-east, generally, and easily fordable. The ford is 2 feet deep and pebbly.

The path is level and good, except for a few swampy bits, at first through high thick forest, then through open spaces of paddy-fields and high bushes; level all along. Then, leaving the valley of the Me Hok in a north-east direction (the river coming in from west), at 9 1/2 miles follow a tributary to the crest of the low hills, the north boundary of the valley, and following their crests for a couple of miles with steep bits up and down occasionally, at 12 miles drop down east into a narrow valley and follow a little stream north-west. This stream and valley come from the east, and at this point take a sharp curve to north-west. This is a very narrow stony defile, densely wooded.

At 15 miles reach the Sup Nium river, a fine stream flowing east, larger than the Me Hok, but not so deep; both have low sloping banks, densely wooded. Crossing the river, follow a tributary northwest. At 17 1/2 miles there is a small open space with camping room for two regiments, where we halt. The valley of the Me Hok (left this morning) is about 10 miles long, and at its widest 2 miles. There are three villages in it—Hai Tuk (or Muang Hai) in two parts, 5 miles apart, and Paboung. They can supply cows, pigs, poultry, and rice to a small extent.

Hai Tuk (1) is at the south extremity; Hai Tuk (2) near the middle; and Paboung near the north end. All three are very small, containing about 30 houses apiece.

The present path, from the 12th to the 15th mile, is very rough, narrow, and difficult, down a narrow gorge, but there would be no difficulty in making an easy gradient road, the hills on either side being low and sloping, and the forest which covers them is composed of thinner trees than between Me Tsai and Hai Tuk.

The general lie of the ranges is from north to south, with many spurs and underfeatures running in all directions. A few scattered huts were visible on the hillsides, and the forest was being worked in places. Many streams and small tributary rivers were seen.

There is no village of Sup Nium, as marked on the old maps.

The Shans are a hardier and more manly race than the Laos, though in physique they are not in any way superior. As compared to the hillmen on the North-West frontier of India, they are nowhere either in physique or martial bearing. Very few carry arms, and fewer still fire-arms, except when making a journey. The men wear their hair long, and tied in a knot on the side of the head, round the knot winding a small puggri; during the day they wear over this a very broad brimmed straw or bamboo hat, offering much shade and some protection from the sun.

The women wear a turban, generally red, a short jacket, and the ordinary lungi, or petticoat, but of brighter colours than in Laos. They are not so clean- looking, though they bathe constantly; and their houses are dirty. Nearly all the carriers passed on the road during the whole of our journey from Moulmein have been Shans, mostly men.

In the hills, between Zimme and Kianghai, the nights were very cold and the days hot. In the Me Lau valley the temperature is the same as at Zimme. From Kianghai to Me Tsai it was cold; and in the hills beyond and in the Me Hok valley quite mild, the average being 80° at noon in the forest, and 65°at 5 a.m. Here, at 8 P.M. the mercury stood at 63°.

There is a thick mist in all the valleys, lasting till about 7 a.m. every morning—a strong point in favour of an active enemy: the dew at night is very heavy. Horse-flies were very bad at the midday halts, but there are very few mosquitoes or sand-flies at this season. Next Entry