Kianghai, the old frontier town between Siam and the Shan State of Kian: Tung, is situated on the right bank of the Me Khok river. It is described as th “old” frontier town because, though the Kiang Tung Shans still claim th country north of the Me Khok river, yet the Siamese occupation extends ti Me Tsai on the Me Tsai river, a point-about 45 miles due north of Kianghai.
The town is 1,600 yards long by 750 yards wide, of an irregular obloni shape, surrounded by a stout brick-wall and parapet; also the work of Aloni Paiah, the Burman General who built the Zimme wall. The interior is coverei with detached houses, more or less thickly scattered amongst trees.
The population does not exceed 1,500 inhabitants.
The main road down the centre is broad and good, but not metalled. 1 road divides the town breadthways, and another runs from the centre road to the second river-gate; both of these are broad enough for guns.
As above-mentioned, the town is surrounded by a wall. This wall is from 6 feet to 4 feet high, and 4 feet thick; built of solid burnt brick, and standing on an earth parapet from 8 feet to 15 feet high. It is loopholed throughout at 4 feet intervals. Though in a bad state of disrepair in many parts, it is capableof affording very good protection to the defenders, and in a fortnight could be put into a thoroughly efficient state of defence. The top of the wall is roughly castellated, as at Zimme. At the north-east corner there is no wall, but a high mound, along which earth-works were originally made, fills in this portion, and makes it the strongest corner of the town.
All round the interior face of the parapet runs a path capable of being broadened into a gun road.
The ditch is shallow, and, in most parts, dry, and need be considered no obstacle.
Round the outside of the ditch a small path runs round the town, and outside this on all sides, except towards the river, is a thick belt of bamboo clumps and trees with scattered huts in it.
The chief water-supply is introduced by a cutting from the river entering at the north-west face. There are also wells near all the principal houses. The Me Khok river flows past the north-east face of the town, about 100 yards from the walls.
There is no regular garrison, but, as at Zimme, each householder is supposed to possess some sort of fire-arm. Probably there are not more than 200 serviceable muzzle-loaders in the place. There is a so-called arsenal which contains a collection of rubbish in the shape of jingals and old flint-locks.
As it stands at present, the wall on the three land sides can be approached under good cover to within 100 yards, there being a thick belt of trees round those faces.
The town is not commanded by higher ground in any direction, and the only position from which guns could bombard it by direct fire would be from across the river.
A daily market on a small scale is held at the cross-roads in the middle of the town. The market women sell fish, tobacco, betel-nut, chillies, and the like. There are no butchers, and meat is not often procurable.
Large supplies of meat (beef and pork), rice, tobacco, and sugar could be collected from the surrounding country.
Kianghai is a dead-alive decayed old place, which has seen better days; but which might, even now, regain its former importance if it would bestir itself. It lies on the chief trading route between China and Burma, and on that between Burma and the Eastern Laos States, situated on a fine water-way, and in the midst of a fertile and well-cultivated country. There appears to be no local market for European goods, and no local trade, the only shops being temporary ones opened by caravans for a day or two en route. It speaks well for the prospects of English trade that English goods, making the long land journey to Kianghai, and then being conveyed in boats down the Me Khok and Cambodia rivers, can compete favourably with French goods as far down the latter river as Luang Prabang. As far as I was able to judge from the few days I was at Kianghai, it appeared to me that the English trade towards Kiangtsen, Kiang Khong, and generally down the Cambodia river was much more considerable than the trade to the Shan State of Kiang Tung and thence on to Yunnan.
In February the Me Khok river at Kianghai is about 300 feet broad, but in flood time nearly twice that breadth. Its depth varies a good deal, but there are two fords close to the town which are practicable during the dry season. The first of these is exactly opposite the north-east face of the town; it crosses at right angles, and is 3 feet deep; current strong. Loaded mules can cross, but their loads are apt to get wet. The near bank is low and sloping, with a sandy beach; the far bank perpendicular and 8 feet high; below the ford the water is deep. It would be necessary to stake it out and also to ramp the opposite bank to make it safe and passable for troops. It is commanded from the town wall. At 300 yards range the second ford is about 1A of a mile down-stream, and is out of sight of the town. It is a more complicated ford than the upper one, but shallower. The ford runs for the first 30 yards at right angles to the bank, then turns down-stream for 50 yards, then crosses direct to the opposite bank (vide diagram, page 40). The near bank is perpendicular and 10 feet high; the far bank is low and sloping. The ford requires careful staking, and the near bank would have to be ramped for the passage of troops. In the rainy season both these fords are impassable for anything but elephants. There are no boats that can be depended upon, but bamboo rafts for the conveyance of troops could be easily and quickly constructed. From Kianghai, the Me Khok river takes a north-easterly course and joins the Me Khong or Cambodia river at Kiangtsen. It is navigable for river boats from Kianghai downwards, and is used as the main trading route between Moulmein and the towns on the Cambodia river as far as Luang Prabang.
Extensive camping grounds on all sides.