One of the highlights of the attractions of Laos is a cruise on the Mekong river. The placidly flowing water of the 10th longest river in the world and 7th longest in Asia takes visitors through a range of landscapes that form the southern part of this Indochina country. The river supports life of the people living along its banks and cruising along on a wooden boat offers a great opportunity to experience the everyday life of the rural population. Aboard a river cruise such as those offered by Vat Phou Cruises, you will notice the warmth and grace of the locals as they wave to you from self-made bungalows or while swimming in the river. Although the river is one of the main thoroughfares of this region, there is relatively little traffic and some parts of the river offer complete solitude, reminiscent of what the early French explorers must have felt when they discovered the area in the 19th century.
The river is surrounded by history and has played a vital role in civilizations past and present. 'Mekong' can be translated as “mother of water” and the river is indeed the source of life for millions of people in Southeast Asia as people rely on it for irrigation, food and water for cooking. Having its base in the Tibetan Plateau the river emerges on a journey through no less then six countries: it flows though the Yunnan province in China, then flows south west forming the border between Burma and Laos before defining the border between Laos and Thailand for some 850 kilometres. After passing through Vientiane, Phnom Penh and Vietnam dividing into the Mekong Delta it empties out into the South China Sea. Extreme variations along the way gives the river life with some areas tranquil and others featuring rapids and waterfalls and reflects the life along its banks where some areas are completely deserted and others bustling with life.
Passengers travelling on the Mekong river will have the privilege of witnessing some of the most stunning and diverse nature in the region. Limestone peaks rising from the water, mangrove forest or fertile rice fields are all on display and abundant with life. Exotic birds and animals inhabit the banks of the river and an estimated 850 fish species live in its waters. Large river fish are especially abundant in the Mekong. In fact no other river is home to so many species. The largest examples include the giant river carp which can grow up to 1.5 metres, the Mekong Freshwater Stingray which can have a wingspan of up to 4.3 metres and the famous Mekong Giant Catfish which can grow up to about 3 metres. Some of the species are endangered but many are abundant and remain a vital source of protein for people living in the region. Birds also feed from the river and passengers may occasionally see them dive down to fetch catch of the day.
Dotted alongside the river banks are several small or larger villages where the local population can be seen going about their daily life as they have for centuries. Known for their warmth and hospitality, they often invite visitors into their homes to share the local food or tell stories about life on the river. Their lifestyle is based on subsistence farming and offers a stark contrast to the more modern existence in other parts of the region. Some visitors will see a trip on the Mekong with Vat Phou Cruises as an adventure, some as an escape, yet one thing is certain, they will all leave with a lasting impression.
Original source http://www.vatphou.com/cruise_mekong.html
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