- View the map of whole Mekong River
Mekong has its source in the icy wastes of the eastern Tibetan plateau.
It flows south and east, through China, Myanmar, Thailand, Laos,
Cambodia and Vietnam, emptying into the South China Sea through a wide
delta south of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon).
The Mekong is of immense significance as a natural
boundary. Its unpredictable waters and shifting bed make fording or
bridging almost impossible. From the bottom of the river jagged rocks as
sharp as teeth extend to and above the surface of the river, making
Thai people fled across the Mekong from south China
to establish the kingdom of Siam, now Thailand, 700 years ago. The same
ethnic group settled in Laos somewhat earlier and became the ancestors
of the present Laotians. The language and culture of the Thais and the
Laos are very similar. Historically, the Mekong protected Siam from
invasions from the east. However, the kingdom of Laos, without this
natural protection, fell under the control of various East Asian
civilizations, such as the ancient empires of Champa, Chenla, Funan, the
Khmers of Cambodia, and the Vietnamese. Later in the colonial days of
French colonization, the Mekhong marked the western edge of the French
empire of Indo-China; with Siam (Thailand) preserving its own
independence as a buffer zone between the British, in Burma, and the
French to the east. You will see the artistic and architectural legacy
of some of these cultures on your cruise.
This great river has seen the rise and fall of
empires and battles between foes of different races and cultures.
Explorers, traders and simple fishermen and farmers have used the Mekong
River for thousands of years. In recent times, peace has returned and
the ordinary life of the river goes on as it always has.
During the Vietnam War, the west bank of the Mekong
provided bases for raids against the advance of the later triumphant
communist armies in Laos. Following the war, anti-communist forces
escaped west across the Mekong to refugee camps in northern Thailand