The Mighty Mekong River .... a brief overview

The mighty Mekong River - Thailand
Sunset over the Mekong River in South Laos

The Mekong River plays an important role in South East Asia for agriculture, transport and tourism. And while living in Thailand and traveling in SEA the Mekong River has drawn my attention and whenever I am nearby this mighty river I have to stop somewhere, somehow and overlook the river. There is something that attracts me to this river. So join me in a few stories about this river. It will be short stories, just to encourage you to find out more about this great river. This is the first story in the sequel of the "The Mighty Mekong River". Following will be 3 more parts about history, traveling and future. But let's start with a overview of the river that starts high at the Tibetan Plateau in China and ends at the Mekong Delta in Vietnam. The current flow of the Mekong River was developed in the past 6.000 years.

The Mekong River is considered to be the 7th longest river of Asia with 4.350 km (or 4.900 km depending on what source you read). The river first passes the Yunnan province in China and then becomes a border river between Burma and Laos. After that it becomes a border river between Thailand and Laos and is part of the infamous "Golden Triangle". Then the river enters Laos for the first time and a few 100 km's down stream the river again becomes a border river between Thailand and Laos. This time for about 800 km. Then the river enters Southern Laos until the border area with Cambodia where the river enters Cambodia. In South-West Cambodia the river enters Vietnam where it becomes part of the world famous "Mekong Delta" before is mouths into the South China Sea.

As anything done anywhere in the river has influence for many countries and many people living along the river there have been different Mekong Commissions since 1957 and the current "Mekong River Commission" has been created in 1995 by Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. Later China and Burma joined as "dialog partners". As the current economic changes in SEA have a great influence on the well being of the Mekong River I do hope governments will listen better to the MRC. For the sake of people living along the river and for the sake of animals living in the river. The MRC represents about 60 million people who are living along the river and who depend on the river.

With so many countries & cultures involved you can imagine the river has many names like "Turbulent River" (China), "Mae Nam Khong" (Thailand & Laos), "Tongle Mekong" / "Tongle Thum" (Cambodia), "Wylie" (Tibetan), "Song Lon" or "Song Mekong" (Vietnam) and in Southern Vietnam it is also called "Nine Dragon River". There are also products that try to make a connection with the river like "Blue Mekong" (a Thai rum/whiskey), "Mekong Peanuts" (from Cambodia) and "Mekong Life" (a restaurant in Vietnam). My favorite name to use is "Mae Nam Khong" what is roughly translated as "The Mother of Water" but more strictly as "River Khong". "Mae" means mother and "Nam" means water.

The river acts as water-shed in the region and in that way plays an important role in the water management of the region. The river also holds a huge fish diversity and even some unique species like the Irrawaddy Dolphin, the freshwater stingray and the Mekong Giant Catfish. Although you would think the Mekong River would be a great transport route for the region unfortunately many parts have huge rapids like in Southern Laos that makes the river not usable as gate-way to/from the sea. The fact that a huge river like this cuts thru many countries it also divided economic regions before the time of ferries and bridges. And the latter is something that is changing rapidly at the moment. If you like to travel along the Mekong River in Laos or Cambodia,  NOW is the time to go as rapid economic development will change this country very fast. And travel-wise not for the better.

For all stories about The Mighty Mekong River click on the label "MekongStory". For all postings relating to the Mekong River just click on the label "MekongRiver".

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