The Mekong is one of the world’s great rivers. Covering a distance of nearly 5,000km from its source on the Tibetan Plateau in China to the Mekong Delta in Viet Nam, the river flows through six countries: China, Myanmar, Thailand, Lao PDR, Cambodia and Viet Nam.
It’s basin is home to one of the richest areas of biodiversity in the world, with more than 20,000 plant species and 850 fish species discovered to date. An estimated 80% of the nearly 65 million people living in the Lower Mekong River Basin depend on the river and its rich natural resources for their livelihoods, making sustainable development crucial for the environment and communities living in the basin. Today we’ll dive into the Mekong River and specifically its basin, where it empties into the ocean, with multiple-time TTA guest, author, and all-around great guy, Nick Ray.
Every other week, we have a special Patron-only episode or video. Donate as little as $1/month to enjoy our bonus content. Your donation helps us cover the costs of keeping the show alive. Thanks in advance for your support.
Introduction: Scott & Trevor Banter about their experience on the Mekong River
Trevor: The Mekong is so important to the region and features so many amazing attractions, it could take us a while to list all the favorites we’ve been to. Certainly longer if we listed our Mekong bucket list. But let’s kick it off that way, Scott: what are some of your favorite Mekong memories –and let’s save our wish list for the outro.
Where along the Mekong Scott has been and enjoyed:
- From the Golden Triangle – Chiang Khong, many times, bikes, motorbikes, beautiful stretch, taking the left turn at Ban Zaew about 20km after Chiang Saen.
- Chiang Khong many times: picnics, kayaking, even tubing.
- Nakhon Phanom in eastern Thailand and north of there a bit.
- Ubon Ratchathani many years ago .
- Cycled about 250km along the Mekong in Loei province along the border with Laos to Nong Khai.
- Taken the slow boat over two-days from Xuay Xai – Pak Beng – Luang Prabang, Champasak.
- Phnom Penh.
- 4,000 Islands in southern Laos.
- Jogged along the Mekong in Vientiane, Laos.
- The farthest north I’ve been is Chiang Rai, Anantara and the Four Seasons, which are in the Golden Triangle, where the Mekong forms the border of Myanmar, Laos, and Thailand – Elephant surfing on the Ruak River. And the boat ride from the one resort to the other is great. Wonderful welcome bar and epic sundowner bar at the Tented Camp.
- Luang Prabang, I’ve been a dozen times. One of my favorite places in the world.
- Tubing in Vang Vieng ( I didn’t actually, but VV is gorgeous).
- Vientiane: BBQ on the grass beside the Mekong with snakes and rats rustling around.
- Vat Phu and Champasak, Laos are amazing.
- Kayaking through the flooded forests south of Preah Rumkel, where the Mekong first enters Cambodia from Laos.
- Kratie, Cambodia. Where the Irrawaddy Dolphins are. Koh Trong, aka Pomelo Island.
- Here in Phnom Penh, I cross the Mekong every few weeks. I dipped a toe in the river in late September while visiting Silk Island.
- And then I took a 4 day, 3 night river cruise from Ho Chi Minh City up to Phnom Penh. That was quite an experience too.
Guest Intro: Nick Ray
Nick Ray is about as well-versed in Southeast Asia as one could be. He’s the longtime author of the Lonely Planet Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and has contributed to guidebooks about Viet Nam and lots of other areas in Asia. Additionally, he helps run a travel company, Hanuman Travel, based in Cambodia with his wife and team, as well as working as a fixer with their other business, Hanuman Films. He joins us online from Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
Listen to episode 138 to hear Nick Ray answer the following questions:
- Where are you at and what are you up to?
- Give people a 3-minute overview of your background, perhaps as it pertains to your knowledge of the Mekong River basin (e.g. how long in Asia, LP book background, etc.)
- We’re chatting about the Mekong River and specifically its Basin in Viet Nam due to a new guidebook coming out – what is that book and what was your role in it?
- Tell us all about the Mekong Basin in Viet Nam.
- What is there to do – highlights?
- How long does one need there?
- Should someone go down from Ho Chi Minh City or do so by boat to/from Cambodia?
- I heard the Mekong heading to Cambodia on the Viet Nam side is full of factories and not so nice?
- What do you love about the Mekong River?
- What’s the northernmost point on the Mekong that you’ve been? And how or why did you go there?
- Tell us about your experiences and impressions of the Mekong in these countries:
- We’ve all worked in tourism. How and where do you see tourism benefiting the people of the Mekong?
- What’s next for Nick?
- Nick Ray on Twitter:
- Lonely Planet interview with Nick Ray:
- Lonely Planet Laos guidebook (10th edition):
- Hanuman Travel:
- Hanuman Films:
- Episode 72: Northern Myanmar with Nick Ray:
- Episode 30: Up and Coming Cambodia with Nick Ray:
- Episode 85: 4,000 Islands & Vat Phou, Laos:
- Free the bears
- Read about the Mekong River Commission in the really interesting book, Mad About the Mekong.
Learn more about Scott and Trevor:
- Follow Scott on Twitter: @scottcoates73
- Trevor’s Blog
- Scott’s Blog
- Groovy Map Seoul
- National Geographic Cambodia
- National Geographic Thailand
- Follow Talk Travel Asia on Twitter
- Follow us on Facebook
- Follow us on Instagram
- Follow us on Vine
Theme Music by Jamie Ruben