A long tail boat is a smallish, light boat with a wooden hull and a long camshaft with the propeller at the end. The special is that the shaft is completely movable in all directions, you can therefore take the propeller completely out of the water if it becomes to shallow. The boy steering the boat was doing just that so that there was a big water fountain behind the boat
Another possible reason: if the long shaft goes over the back of the boat, there is no need for a hole in the hull as with an inboard motor, or a heavily reinforced transom as required by an outboard motor.
The longtailed boats in Thailand used a car engine, I believe...
When I get my slide-scanner, I'll post my picture from Koh Phi Phi (before the tsunami).
How skilled this little boy is at keeping upright on his bamboo boat!
And how ungainly my fellow travellers look (needing to be helped)
Look at the grace of this young girl, utterly in charge of her boat
What were the boats in the pictures used for? Did you ever take one?
That area is so beautiful. Is that stair-looking area actually stairs, or is it for crops?
Bixa ~ during November 2006 I trekked with my friend 'M' in Laos. First we had a full week staying at Siem Reap to see some of the temples at Angkor Wat. Most people stay for only 2/3 days but I did not want to be in a rush and I particularly wanted to visit some temples that were relatively far away from the tourist hotspots.
After this we flew to Luang Prabang where we started our trek. It was a very easy one. We were driven to remote areas where we were able to walk, with guides, through indiginous forests. I long to return. It's hard to think of anywhere that could be more beautiful (although the Himalayas are close).
We travelled a lot in long-tailed boats. They are not easy to control even though the Laotians use them all the time. There are many unexpected currents in the Mekong and its tributaries and the going can get quite rough (and thrilling). On one occasion we crashed head-on into a bank; no-one was hurt
The steps down to the tourist boats were in Luang Prabang.
I will post a thread featuring my two week trek in Laos.
The larger tourist boats (as in the last picture) do have motors. In fact all the boats I went in did have motors (such as the one showing my 'ungainly' companions. It is the villagers who tend not to have motors on their boats.
Most of the areas I visited in Laos were completely unspoilt by development of any sort. There are many different tribes living in the hill and forest country; they seem to co-exist peacefully. We were taken into the real backwoods where people had never seen money, grew all their own food and wove fabric for their clothing. It was an enlightening and wonderful experience for me and I would like to repeat it, but for longer.
During the rainy season the rivers flood but during the dry season the water levels fall. Villagers take advantage of the rich deposited silt to grow their crops on the river banks. As they live in forests it is next to impossible to clear land for agriculture but so easy to use the waterways. I had never seen this method of agriculture before and I was amazed. Here is a picture of a typical river bank.
Of course, when the rains return, the 'fields' are washed away.
Not everyone has neat and tidy rows of vegetables ~
I was able to photograph these plants close-up because we took a boat from Luang Prabang across the river to see a series of caves that, from ancient times, had been excavated below the river and contained Buddhist artefacts. We took torches with us. The atmosphere was incredible entering a place that had been venerated during untold centuries.
Bixa - I do believe that the banks of the Nile are/were used for agriculture in this way. I'm not sure that this happens now since the construction of the Aswan dam. I have heard that the dam has caused a huge disruption in the natural flow of things because there is no longer the annual flood coming downstream enriching the soil with silt. In fact, the silt is piling up, underwater, at the dam walls which can only lead to trouble.