4 November 2011
'Not one single wild tree stands in the jungles of Laos,' Christopher said to me today. A long term colleague and associate, Mr. Hoeth is a Swiss expat who relocated to Laos to pursue his passion of crafting agarwood oil.
Apart from what I witnessed firsthand in the Far East just a few weeks ago, with the Chinese effectively putting an end to wild agarwood as an industry, this is the most devastating piece of news anyone's given me.
'As for the wood, I have not seen it in over a year,' Mr. Hoeth said.
Sadly, it has been just that span of time since we last spoke and he told me he'd be able to supply me with wild Oud wood if the need arose.
'The Vietnamese have come in and cut it all down,' he said. I can still hear him repeating, 'Not one single tree remains in Laos.'
'Is there no wild trees to be found anywhere, then?' I wondered.
'There are some in the National Park of Thailand, and some in protected forests in China,' he said. 'Yet, the Vietnamese will bribe the Thai rangers to let them in, and they go in there and cut the trees down, and bring them back to Vietnam. As for China, they simply kill the Chinese guards and chop the trees down and take them back to Vietnam. They kill the Chinese in their own country,' he said, 'in order to take the wood.'
I was calling him to arrange a visit to his distillery and see whether we couldn't cooperate on an upcoming Artisanal Laotian oil for Ensar Oud™, which I'd dreamt of for years, yet simply never managed to get around to. And he basically told me my trip would have been futile.
'Where else were you planning to go?' Mr. Hoeth asked.
'I'm desperately looking for wild Oud wood, wherever I can find it,' I said. 'I've been so preoccupied with my oil distillations that I never bothered to save any of the wild wood for myself. I'm considering Koh Kong, Selangor, and Borneo…and of course, I wanted to come to Laos…'
'Borneo is the last place where any wood remains,' Christopher said. 'But within the last six months alone I've seen over two thousand Vietnamese go there. Within six months, I assure you, not one single wild tree will be left standing in Borneo. They will clean out the entire island, just like they did Cambodia and Laos. And that will be that.'