Interesting Facts About Mekong River You Might Not Know

As one of the world’s greatest waterways, the mighty Mekong River flows through the heart of Southeast Asia, passing 6 countries in total and offering an outstanding array of landscapes, wildlife, and culture of the regions it flows through. Here are some interesting facts of the Mekong River you might wish to know before planning a cruise in this mighty waterway.

Aerial view of the Mekong River at dusk

History of discovering the Mekong

It was said that Father Gaspar da Cruz was the first European to describe traveling on the Mekong River. In the mid-19th century, the French had a special interest in the Mekong to use as a route through Southeast Asia into China. But it was impossible when an expedition led by Francis Garnier in 1860s discovered that the Mekong has too many waterfalls and fast flows.

Mekong River is the longest river in Southeast Asia

'What is the longest river in Southeast Asia?" It's the Mekong. Originating from Tibetan Plateau, Mekong River tumbles down through the Himalayas and southern China into Southeast Asia, some 4,500 kilometers from the source. Draining an area of 800,000 square kilometers, it traverses through six countries including China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. The Mekong forms an important interconnection between the countries in the region and its diverse landscapes, cultures, and peoples.

Map of the Mekong River

Fed by the melting snow waters of the Tibetan Himalayas, the Mekong starts its journey through the fascinating mountain gorges of Yannan province in China, gathering power from different tributaries along the way before flowing into the heart of the Golden Triangle. It passes several falls in Southern Laos and then wideout into the immense Mekong Delta. Cruising on an impressive Mekong River Cruise is a fascinating way to gain a fantastic immersion into the unraveled characteristics the river has to offer. Most luxury river cruise ships offer Mekong cruises from Cambodia to Vietnam and vice versa which are easy to navigate with some of the most diverse wildlife, history, and culture.

Embark on a luxury cruise on Mekong River with Top Mekong Cruises, you will have a special opportunity to get a fascinating insight into the rustic yet charming scenery along the river banks, unique culture and local way of life and timeless charm of the long-lasting history of best-known sites and the legendary river itself.

A Luxury vessel cruising on the Mekong River - A Must-Try Experience!

Mekong River consist of 2 parts

The Mekong River is divided into 2 main parts: the Upper Mekong and the Lower Mekong

This stretch of river is 2,200 kilometers long-running mainly through Laos and China, dipping only momentarily into Thailand and Myanmar. It is considered the more scenic part of the river. A cruise through the Upper Mekong will be full of natural vistas of mountains, jungles, and other untamed landscapes as the scenery here are largely untouched. There are several Mekong cruises that sail through this fascinating stretch of river with different itineraries of 4, 8 to 10 days.

Suggested Read: The Best Mekong Cruises on the Upper Mekong

The splendid scenery of the Upper Mekong in Laos

Completely contrast to its upper counterpart, the Lower Mekong is filled with active local life and the tranquility of nature. This amazing reach of river bustles with life, colorful floating markets, and transportation from every direction. For a unique cruising experience with a true insight into modern life, the Lower Mekong will be the best choice.

Apart from dynamic human activities, the Lower Mekong also boasts a vast array of natural beauty from lush jungles, verdant orchards to amazing mangrove forests with stunning diversity. While discovering this part of this world, you are offered a rare opportunity to experience first hands local culture with a range of authentic activities.

Suggested Read: The 10 Best Mekong Cruises on the Lower Mekong

Idyllic floating villages of the Lower Mekong

Mekong River has many different names

As the Mekong flows through so many international borders, it’s arguably known by many different names. Each name demonstrates typical characteristics of the Mekong and enhances the great diversity of peoples and cultures the river flows through. In China, it’s called the Lancang Jiang which means “turbulent river” while in Laos and Thailand, it’s referred to as Mae Kong or Mae Nam Kong, both mean “the Mother of Waters”. Burmese people call it Mekaung Myit but in Vietnam, it is commonly known as Cuu Long or “Nine Dragons” due to the multiple branches that emerge in the delta.

Suggested Read: Best Time of The Year for a Mekong river cruise

Bustling crowded living on floating markets on Mekong River in Vietnam

Mekong River is a trove of incredible biodiversity

The Mekong River is considered the second most diverse area on earth, just after the Amazon River Basin. There are 20,000 plant species, 430 mammals, 1,200 birds, 800 reptiles and approximately 850 fish species. This number has been increasing as many rare and unique and previously unknown species have been found along its banks.

The river is astoundingly rich in life and home to typical species including the Siamese crocodile, the Sarus crane, Giant Catfish, Mekong Stingray, and Giant Ibis. The Mekong is also one of a few regions where the magnificent and extremely rare Mekong Dolphin can be found. The Mekong Region contains 16 WWF Global 200 ecoregions, the greatest concentration of ecoregions in mainland Asia. 

The Endangered Mekong Dolphin spotted on the Mekong River

Mekong River is the life-blood of the region

The Mekong river plays an important role in the livelihoods of the people living along the banks it flows through as over 60 million people depend on the Mekong for their life or main source of income through fishing or agriculture. For a long time, people living around the river have depended on the water supply for their daily life activities as well as transportation. The Mekong basin is home to the biggest inland fishery providing a great source of fish for the people, especially in two countries Cambodia and Vietnam.

Farmers feeding fish in cages, Mekong River

What to see on Mekong River

Just like other destinations in Southeast Asia, Mekong River has something to offer for worldwide travelers. The river boasts various beautiful point-of-interests, peaceful local villages, and fascinating natural sights for you to explore.

Some outstanding Mekong river sights you can have a chance to see can be listed as: the bustling Ho Chi Minh City of Vietnam, 2 beautiful Cambodian cities of Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, charming cities of Luang Prabang and Vientiane, some local villages by the river such as Angkor Ban, Koh Chen, Tan Chau, Kampong Cham. You can also find it easy to access to some famous attractions like Kuang Si Waterfalls, Pak Ou Caves, Angkor Wat, etc.

Further Read: What to Expert on a Cruise on Mekong River

The magical Kuang Si Waterfalls in Luang Prabang, an Easy-to-access sight from the Mekong

Over the past decades, this Legendary River still retains its timeless charm and fascinating blend of culture, history, and diversity of multiple countries it flows through. Enjoy a journey on a luxury Mekong River Cruise, you will find yourself lost in an off-beaten-path region on earth. For more travel ideas on the Mekong river, please feel free to check out our Mekong Cruise Tips.

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