‘The Last Days of the Mighty Mekong’ Review: A River’s Own Long Journey
Some rivers are so still, so complacent, so dead that they leave the heart indifferent. Not the Mekong, the longest river in Southeast Asia. Fed by the melting snow and mountain streams of the Tibetan Himalayas, it tumbles down sheer-sided gorges in southwestern China, winds through the jungle hills of Laos, descends a series of rapids into Cambodia, then flows serenely into southern Vietnam before merging into the South China Sea near Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon.
The Mekong is no longer the wild and remote river that enchanted Henri Mouhot, the French explorer famous for rediscovering the fabled temples of Angkor in Cambodia some 160 years ago. As he traveled beside the Mekong, Mouhot wrote lyrically of hearing parakeets calling to the moon and a panther crying to its mate. You have to go a long way to hear these sounds on the Mekong now. The rise of China, and peace in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam after years of war, have irrevocably transformed the lives of the millions who live in the Mekong Basin and rely on its waters for their livelihood.