Originating high in the Tibetan Plateau, the Mekong River is the life-blood of activity throughout the history of Southeast Asia.
Best way to explore the Mekong culture
Using the river as your guide is the best way to witness these cultures in their most intact form. The Mekong River is an important lifeline, as it supports agriculture, transport, and cultural traditions of a large number of people living along its banks. From source to mouth, many of the communities along the Mekong continue to live as they have for hundreds of years.
The Mekong flows through regions of enormous ethnic and cultural diversity on its journey from the melting glaciers of the Tibetan Plateau, in China’s Qinghai Province, to the East Sea. Traversing Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, the river passes through steep mountain gorges, daunting rapids, and immense alluvial plains in six nations.
Below China, the Mekong becomes narrower, quicker, and less navigable, but it is just as important to the communities which surround it. Cultures of Laos, Thailand, Vietnam, and China farm the lands along the river, and graze their livestock on the hillsides that rise along its banks. The pace of life slows just as the Mekong collects and burgeons, fed by the many tributaries flowing down from the highlands. These beautiful countries with centuries of history and culture, which experienced so much war and dislocation, are now developing swiftly – their welcoming people working hard to secure a better future.
Rich rice fields, swarms of fishing boats and a highly traditional lifestyle are the highlights of exploring this majestic waterway but there is also always something new to be found in this quickly expanding part of the world. Seasonal tides of the Mekong River create varied lifestyles. During low tides, people grow vegetables close to its banks. Fishermen of the Mekong know well that the levels of their catches are related to the tides. When the tide is high between May and June, there are considerable fish in the river. Their number drops during the low tides between November and April, yet fishing is possible all year long. The Mekong is thus the long-lasting lifeline of people in its basin.
Apart from feeding local communities with plant and animal life, Mekong River also has taken on a cultural significance in each of the areas it touches and inspired a dazzling array of ritual, musical, and artistic expressions.
Ideal Mekong trip
The combination of stunning scenery, adventuring and engagement with local culture makes this an ideal trip for anyone looking for an active and engaging journey. Along the way, you will experience majestic granite slabs protruding from the Mekong, water buffalo sunbathing on sand banks, kids running up and down the shore, and stretches of time when only one or two people can be spotted in the dense vegetation. Country life follows the rhythm of the seasons around planting and harvesting the crops. You can also see them fishing in the rivers and lakes to supplement their income. As gorgeous as the river is, you will be on the boat with not much to do but relax and watch the scenery roll by. However, there are people all around you. You will hear squeals with delight from the riverbank and gladly “hello”, friendly waves. So don’t hesitate to make new friends. Perhaps, participating in a homestay with local family in one of many villages in this region is the best way to get a deep insight into the daily life of the hospitable people.
To sum up, Mekong River is the mother of all Southeast Asian rivers, providing life-sustaining resources to millions of people. Here, you can totally experience how local communities rely on the river for local trade, transportation, and the diverse ecosystem which sustains life and livelihood for millions of people.
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