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 third story in the sequel "The Mighty Mekong River". The first story was "The Mighty Mekong River .... a brief overview". The second story was "The Mighty Mekong River .... A bit of History and Culture".
With so many countries and cultures that the river is passing it has become a inspirational source for travelers from all over the world to explorer. My part of traveling on or along the river goes as far as I have been myself.
Traveling on the Mekong River between Burma and LaosIn 2004 I traveled on the Mekong River between Burma and Laos from Xiang Kok (Laos) to Huay Xai (Laos). And after a last lunch in Laos we took the ferry to Chiang Khong (Thailand). I made this trip on a 4-persons speed-boat! That means about 4 hours uncomfortable sitting in a boat with a hell of a noise from the huge engine. Not to mention "flying" along rapids & big rocks in the river. Not a save way of transport and although it was a spectacular experience I would never do it again. With this boat trip you also are passing the "Golden Triangle".
Traveling from Mae Sai to Wiang KaenA few year later I traveled first from Mae Sai along the "Mae Nam Ruak" (here the Thai-Burmese border) to the center of the "Golden Triangle" where the "Mae Nam Ruak" mouths in the "Mae Nam Khong". It is here where you find the famous "Opium museum" and in this district of Chiang Saen you will also find a kind of harbor for cargo boats to/from China. I traveled along the river until Wiang Kaen where the Mekong River enters Laos for the first time and goes all the way to Luang Prabang (Laos). This a route some travelers take to travel on the Mekong River by speedboat or slow cargo-boat between Thailand and Luang Prabang.
Traveling from Pak Tom to Khong ChiamIn the years following I traveled along the Mekong River where it is for the second time the border between Thailand and Laos. Most parts of it I traveled on both the Lao and Thai side of the river. At the Thai side this route starts at Pak Tom in Chiang Khan district where the Mekong River starts to be (again) the border between Thailand and Laos. And this route ends at Khong Chiam where the Mekong River (again) enters Laos.
Along this stretch of the Mekong River you are passing Chiang Khan (Thailand) where the along the banks of the river is old fashioned Chan Khan. A 200 km further is on the Lao side Vientiane, the capital city of Laos. Again a few km further you are passing Bung Khan where is a ferry going to Pakxan (Laos). Then after passing Thailands most North-Eastern point you are passing Nakhon Phanom (Thailand), Thathek (Laos), That Phnom (Thailand), Mukdahan (Thailand) and Savanakhet (Laos). All places as gate-way to Vietnam.At Khong Chiam (Thailand) is the place where the Mun River mouths in the Mekong River and where the muddy (brown) water of the Mekong Rivers mixed with the clean (blue) water from the Mun River. This is called "Mae Nam Song Si" (or Two color river).
At Nong Khai and Mukdahan were originally only ferry crossings to Laos, and thus the creation of the famous IndoChina Market. Nowadays there are bridges crossing the Mekong River and the ferry crossings are only used for Thai and Lao people (just like in Chiang Khan). But the famous IndoChina Markets are still there in Nong Khai and Mukdahan. At Nakhon Phanom is a third bridge crossing the Mekong River, as gate-way to Vietnam. And at Bung Khan is a ferry crossing for trucks and cars. All bridges and the one ferry at Bung Khan are international border crossings. There are actually at least at 6 other ferry crossings for locals (Thai & Lao).
Traveling from Pakse (Laos) to Phnom Penh (Cambodia)In 2012 I made a motorbike trip along the Mekong River in South Laos and Cambodia. Highlight of that trip was 3 days at the "4000 islands" in the Mekong River, bordering Cambodia. Here there are a few big islands in the river where people are living and many villages are. Like Don Khong. And there are "thousands" of smaller "islands" (or just big rocks) in the river that create huge stunning rapids in the river. It is here also that the French did build the first (and last) rail-road in Laos. It is also this area that makes traveling or transport over the all river impossible. It is also in this area that you can see the world famous Irrawaddy Dolphin. Well you have a chance of seeing if you are lucky.
Following the Mekong River in Cambodia you are passing Stung Treng, Kratie and Kampong Cham. Also in this part of the Mekong River are many big islands and near Kratie you can also see the world famous Irrawaddy Dolphin. Our trip along the Mekong River ended at Phnom Penh where the Tongle Sap River meets the Mekong River. But when the Mekong River has its seasonal floods the water of the Mekong River will push the water of the Tongle Sap River in the other direction (changing the flow of the river) and in that way creating the biggest lake of Asia. On this lake are floating villages of Vietnamese ethnic people (most of the stateless). Along the Mekong River in Cambodia are many small villages.
Still to do ....With traveling 160km+150km+800km+500km means I did only 1.610km of the 4.350 km. So on the bucket list are
- Going to the origin of the Mekong in China and follow the river until Xiang Khok in Laos.
- Taking a boat from Phnom Penh in Cambodia to the Mekong Delta in Vietnam (300 km)
- Traveling along or on the Mekong River in Laos
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".