Vientiane, Laos, Nov. 8, 2010 — I have been a bit too busy, and therefore too tired, to write this past week or so. Tomorrow morning we will leave Vientiane in a jam-packed convoy and head for the mountains of Bourikhamsai province for this entire week. Once there, after an excruciating all-day drive on in an overcrowded vehicle, we will walk the 4 hours into the forest to where we will camp. It is there that we will (hopefully) get to core old-growth Lao cypress trees, the same species that we used from Vietnam to develop our drought reconstructions mentioned in my earlier blog. This is the third attempt to get this trip under way, and for one reason or another it has failed in past attempts. This time, however, things are different. We have been in Vientiane for a bit more than a day, getting ourselves ready for a trip we know too little about, but we are dependent on our Lao colleagues for the logistics, and we hope that things will go well.
I first visited Lao People’s Democratic Republic (PDR) in 2005, with my colleague Methee Wongnak from the Queen Sirikit Botanic Garden in Mae Rim, Thailand. On that trip we traveled all over the north of the country on public transport, and things were really rough. I came back early the next year with my wife, and we sampled pine trees north of Vientiane in Phou Khao Khouay National Park, and that led to the first Lao tree ring paper (Buckley et al., 2007 in Forest Ecology and Management). Since then things have been less than smooth in Lao PDR, and several trips have fallen through. But here we are, packing last minute things for this journey into the more remote forests to the east of here. I am joined by two other members of our laboratory, Dr. Kevin Anchukaitis, a veteran of several trips into Vietnam with me, and Dr. Andrew Bell, a recent post-doctoral fellow who is working on the Greater Mekong Basin grant, and our colleague Le Canh Nam from Vietnam, who has become my right hand man in the region over the past 2 years.
I have much to catch up on, from the visit to the Philippines and from this trip to Laos. Unfortunately it will have to wait until my return at the end of this week.