Tuesday 5 March 2013

The Mighty Mekong

Sam Brockie negotiates a traffic hazard on an island in the
Mekong, near Kratie, Cambodia. 

We have been following the Mekong River for weeks now, crossing from one bank to the other as we make our way upstream from Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We’ve cycled an island in the middle of it near Kratie, stayed at a backpackers hangout at Don Det, Laos, and drunk cold beer as we watched the sun go down at Champasak.
It’s a river that’s grown on us as we’ve realised its importance to the communities alongside it. For landlocked Laos it provides a plentiful supply of freshwater fish and its flood plain grows pretty much all the rice the people of Laos can eat. Tourism adds another dimension - an income for some but a threat to the way of life of others who find their villages overrun with visitors.
Water buffalo on the "beach" as we await a boatman to take us off Don Det Island, southern Laos.
One of the disappointments though has been the lack of passenger boats ferrying people on the Mekong. Some ferries do exist, for example from Phnom Penh into Vietnam. But rapids block parts of the river making it too hazardous for boats, and newly improved roads mean it’s quicker for people to go by bus than by water. Most of the services on the Mekong seem confined to taking people from one side to the other.

Crossing the Mekong near Champasak,

Children at play, Don Det Island, Laos.
Dolphin spotting near Kratie, northern Cambodia.

Crossing to Don Det Island, southern Laos.
A  drink maker, Mekong River, near Kratie, Cambodia. US$0.25 c
buys you a delicious sugar cane drink with ice.

  A German schoolteacher told us, “it’s a lifeline”. For us, it’s a cycleway leading us gently northwards.
Yes, the inevitable sunset shot: this time at Kratie, northern Cambodia.

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