The Mekong: the good, bad and ugly sides to the ‘Danube of the East’

Post Magazine –

To Tibetans, it’s known as Dza Chu, or the River of Rocks, and to the Chinese it’s the Lancang Jiang, the Turbulent River. The Lao refer to it as the Mother of Waters, in Cambodia it’s the Great Water and by the time it reaches Vietnam, at the end of a 4,350km journey, it’s referred to as the River of Nine Dragons.

The Mekong, as it is best known, is the world’s 12th longest river but only the Amazon has a more biodiverse ecosystem.

From its source high in the Himalayas, the “Danube of the East” slices through six countries, providing food, water and livelihoods for more than 70 million people before eventually emptying into the South China Sea.

Large stretches of the waterway are unnavigable, but there are plenty of places where riverboat tourism is booming. You could book an overnight cruise aboard a converted rice barge or the two-day slow boat from Thailand to Laos. Sign up for a speedboat expedition or a sightseeing canoe tour through countryside framed with emerald paddy fields. Many of the trips incorporate shore excursions enlivened by cultural performances in villages and visits to riverbank temples, pagodas and statues.

The Mekong isn’t only about rural experiences, though. A number of towns and cities, many popular with tourists, line the Mekong.

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