About three-fourths of the drainage area of the Mekong lies within the four countries the river traverses on its lower course: Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Tonle Sap Lake in western Cambodia is a part of the Mekong River system and the largest lake of Southeast Asia.
In English the river is called the "Mekong River”, however, the different people along its banks have given different names. In China, it is known as the Lancang Jiang, meaning ‘turbulent river’. The Thai and the Lao refer to it as Mae Kong or Mae Nam Kong, meaning ‘mother water’ while Tonle Sap is translated as "great lake" in Cambodia. In Vietnam, where the river splits into multiple branches, it is Cuu Long River, meaning ‘nine dragons’.
The Mekong River Basin supports one of the largest biodiversity of a river on earth, second only to the Amazon. The region includes 20 000 plant species, 430 mammals, 1 200 birds, 800 reptiles and amphibians and an estimated 850 fish species.
The Mekong River is steeped in a long history, and for thousands of years, it has been the lifeline of the populations that depend on it for survival. The earliest settlements along the river date to 2100 BC. The earliest recorded civilization was the Indianised-Khmer culture of Funan, dating back to the 1st century. In the 5th century, the Khmer culture Chenla existed along the Mekong and the Khmer Empire of Angkor was the last great Indianized state in the region. From around the time of 700 years ago, the Thai people escaped from South China across the Mekong to form the Kingdom of Siam (Thailand), and the Mekong protected Siam from invasions. The same ethnic group also settled in Laos. In 1540, the Portuguese Antonio de Faria was the first European to discover the Mekong.
Today, the Mekong system is extremely complex and affects the lives of 65 million people, many of whom are amongst the poorest in the world. There are many demands made on the river - to provide water for industrial and agricultural development, to sustain subsistence fishing, for transport, to maintain delicate ecological and hydrological balances...
The river supports the largest inland fishery in the world, with total production of 3.9 million tons, valued at between USD 3,9 - 7 billion.
In Vietnam, cruise the massive Mekong Delta that covers an area of 38 850 km2. This picturesque area is dotted by rice paddies, fish farms, fruit orchards, and more. The rice produced in the delta accounts for over half of Vietnam's rice production, so it's no surprise that it is commonly referred to as the "rice bowl" of the country.
The Mekong River offers an opportunity for travelers to learn about new cultures and experience a different way of life. From ancient temples to modern palaces and from traditional villages to bustling cities, cruising along the river is an experience like no other. Explorers will delight in the mix of new languages, traditions, and lifestyles, while nature lovers are sure to enjoy the sunsets and scenery offered along the way. At the end of the journey, travelers will have an in-depth understanding of life along the river.