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. Its 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.
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Scott and Trevor banter about when they first really knew of the Mekong River
Trevor: Probably from some movie from the Vietnam war era. Or a world atlas about the longest rivers in the world.
Scott: I’m not sure – I must have before visiting Asia, but really only can remember knowing so after moving to Thailand in 1999.
Scott and Trevor banter about their first time seeing the Mekong River
Trevor: First time I really gave much thought to the Mekong was after I returned from Vientiane, Laos with a photo of the Queen of Nagas, captured by the US military in the Mekong during the Vietnam war. The photo is quite famous in Thailand and I had a copy of it on my fridge. Soon thereafter I learned that my friend was in the photo and the whole story was a lie. (A Big Fish Tale). From there, I watched Mekong Full Moon Party, the movie that’s about the Naga Fireballs in the Mekong River near Nong Khai and gradually all its other awesome and interesting features.
Scott: I think it was at the Golden Triangle in northern Thailand while starting to plan our first tours with my former travel company, way back in late 1999.
Where along the Mekong River 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 – we used to host a hung-over morning picnic on sand islands there
- Nakhon Phanom in eastern Thailand and north of there a bit. Cycled along it one day there – very nice scenery of low-lying mountains in Laos on the other side.
- Cycled about 250km along the Mekong in Loei province along the border with Laos to Nong Khai in 2020 with Daniel Fraser who was on Ep. 148: Lesser Known Thailand
- Taken the slow boat over two-days from Xuay Xai – Pak Beng – Luang Prabang, way back in early 2000. Kick-ass trip, picking up villagers along the way with animals, and cargo, dropping them off, a cruising slow journey. Have done a few boat trips along the river in Luang Prabang too, which are nice for sundown or going to nearby caves.
- Phnom Penh: on sundown boats quite a few times, jogging along its banks in the morning, and evenings, seeing where the Tonle Sap River joins there – a magical spot
- 4,000 Islands in southern Laos: truly epic – share a quick history – rapids, so wide
- I jogged along the Mekong in Vientiane, Laos many times – dirt roads at that time – again quite – magical
- Chhlong and Kratie: really nice wide river here – 1.5km I’d estimate, not a lot of boat traffic; paddled to see Irrawaddy Dolphins which was really cool. See the company in the show notes.
Where along the Mekong River Trevor has been and enjoyed:
- 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 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.
Mekong Bucket List
- Following it north from Phnom Penh to the border with Laos
- Mekong Basin in Viet Nam – never been
- While not the Mekong River, take a good boat journey up to the Tonle Sap
- Maybe somewhere in Myanmar on it?
- You’ve hyped the 4000 islands in southern Laos.
- I’ve always wanted to go to Nong Khai. Ever since my friend was in the naga photo and I learned about the fireballs.
- I’d love to go up near the source somewhere. Somewhere above the dams.
- Sorya Kayaking Adventures – Kratie, Cambodia
- Le Relais de Chhlong
- Trevor’s story: A Big Fish Tale
- #138: Exploring the Mekong River Basin with Nick Ray
- #150: Motorbiking Vietnam with Hawkmoon
- #148: Lesser-known Thailand with Daniel Fraser
- #147: Most Memorable Hotel Experiences
- #145: High-Value Half- and Full-Day Experiences
Learn more about Scott & Trevor:
- Follow Scott on Twitter: @scottcoates73
- Trevor’s Blog
- Scott’s Blog
- Groovy Map Seoul
- National Geographic Cambodia
- National Geographic Thailand
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Theme Music by Jamie Ruben