HERBS SPICES & SUGAR
Salt wells on Mekong
Salt wells and drying pans raised on stilts, on the banks of the Mekong at Jia Da village, near Yanjing, Tibet. On a bend in the Mekong 70 kilometres upriver from Xidang are the unique Yanjing salt pans. For at least 1,200 years as recorded, and probably longer, salt has been extracted here from both sides of the gorge. Brine is dawn from wells close to the water’s edge (nowadays with electric pumps) and hauled by hand up the slopes to storage tanks in the shade below terraces of man-made flat pans. In the early morning, as the sun clears the mountains to the east of the deep Mekong gorge, women from the salt-mining communities carry bucketloads of the brine up from the tanks and empty them into the pans, on average each measuring about 20 square metres. The sun and strong winds in this part of the gorge evaporate the water during the day, and by afternoon the salt can be raked out. The nearly 3,000 pans, built from wood and clay, rise on both sides of the river, and are worked throughout the year except for the rainy season, from June to September, when evaporation is too slow and the river level rises. The peak season, when evaporation is strongest, is in Spring, from March to May.
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