From its origin in the Tibetan plateau, the Mekong River flows through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, making it the world's 12-longest river. Its ebb and flow have given life not only to Southeast Asia's diverse plant and animal life, but also to its many ancient civilisations.
Although still an important source of food and energy, the Mekong River has also become a popular tourist attraction, especially in the region of the former French Indochina, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. There, traditional communities still live along the river sustaining themselves from fishing and subsistence farming as they have done for centuries.
Cruising the river offers a unique experience and insight into the daily life of these communities as well as an opportunity to submerge oneself in the rich natural surroundings where exotic plant and animal life thrive in their natural habitat. Access to such remote locations, while also enjoying a comfortable stay aboard a specially converted vessel has helped propel interest in countries like Laos and its enduring local cultures.
The Mekong River Commission introduced a number of regulations to ensure river-based development sustains the environment along the river. This agency has also provided the resources and publicity to help sustain the communities along the Mekong's banks and help the communities that depend on the river for their living. Although economic development in Laos is slow, new services and locations are drawing plenty of interest as tourists arrive explore the spectacular scenery and unique culture. Trips such as those offered by Mekong Cruises offer the perfect opportunity for visitors to experience the wonder of life along the Mekong River.
Especially in Laos, has the Mekong River has played an important role in the country's tourism industry. The stretches of river near Luang Prabang in the north of the country and around Vat Phou and Pakse in the south are particularly beautiful and full of cultural life, including features such as traditional village communities and ancient temples. The southern journey takes passengers past the majestic Vat Phou, a 11th century Khmer temple complex which was in 2001 designated a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Cruises in the northern part of Laos will typically involve a visit to the former royal capital of Luang Prabang which is known for it's eclectic mix of French colonial heritage and traditional Laotian architecture. In the old city the streets are lined with beautiful French mansions, some of which have been turned into hotels and guesthouses. The Royal Palace in Luang Prabang is also well worth a visit. This was were King Sisavang Vong and his family resided until the communist coup in 1975 when it was turned into a museum.
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