Mekong River
Mekong River: The Lifeline of Laos
November 7, 2012

The loud slowboat engine drummed away as I sat watching the fog lift off the mountains, the shores of Thailand receding behind me. Fisherman up to their wastes in water expertly cast nets in a wide arc, buffalo grazed along the riverbanks, and villages, along with any sign of civilization, were sparse and spread out, sporadically poking through the jungle.

Life in this part of Laos is incredibly calm and tranquil, particularly compared to that of its southeast Asian neighbors.

Originating high in the Tibetan plateau, the mighty Mekong River crosses six countries before spilling out into a delta along Vietnam’s southeast coast. Well before that point, it threads its way from the Golden Triangle, across Laos, and through the southern extremities of the country, and continuing on through Cambodia.

For Laos, the Mekong River is a lifeline. It’s a sacred waterway and industrial artery, supplying water for villages and towns, carrying passengers and cargo, and watering rice paddies and irrigating corn fields.

I spent two long and lazy days as one of those passengers, traveling the watery 185 miles downriver between Chiang Khong in Thailand and Luang Prabang in northern Laos, a route generally lacking the infrastructure to allow for easy overland travel. Cruising the Mekong River is not the simpler route, but also just an amazing adventure to experience.

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