Archive for Mekong River

Phnom Penh / Cambodia

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 18, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, was once considered as the ‘Pearl of Asia’, a small Paris in Southeast Asia, due to the efforts of the French colonialists to make the place a representative center for it’s administration. Before it was merely a wooden village at the swampy banks of the Tonle Sap River. Sadly, the former elegance of the city has faded away with it’s cruelsome history in the 20th century and the reconstruction since the 1980s in a cheap, ugly, postmodern manner. Nevertheless, when visiting Phnom Penh one can experience some reminiscences of the old times. For many visitors the megacity is nowadays attractive also as the business center of Cambodia and alluring for it’s notorious nightlife.

Pay a visit to the whole article on ‘Phnom Penh‘…

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘Phnom Penh’. Read here the whole article on Phnom Penh.

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Vientiane / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 9, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Vientiane is Laos capital city. Just a few years ago it was a sleepy, laid-back place at the banks of the Mekong River opposite Thailand. In the last years, due to massive investment from abroad (namely Chinese), the city is booming representatively for the whole country. Vientiane’s development is mirroring the rapid changes which goes on in whole Southeast Asia. As a touristic destination it is of minor interest. There are few sights to visit, and none of them is of any greater significance. However, many Westerners who live in neighbouring Thailand are doomed to do their ‘visa-runs’ to the Thai consulate in Vientiane.

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Xieng Kok / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , on July 8, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Xieng Kok is a border town situated at the left banks of the Mekong River in north Laos. It’s a remote place and kind of a dead end when approaching it per road. Though, in the rainy season there is much boat traffic on the river, who is the traditional travel route. However, the place’s surroundings are not fully save. It is drug gang territory and much smuggling is going on to and fro the border to Burma/Myanmar.

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Houayxay / Laos

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on July 7, 2014 by Thim Kwai

Houayxai is the capital of Bokeo Province in Laos. It’s a sleepy nest situated at the banks of the Mekong River, opposite to Thailand’s border post Chiang Khong. In the last years it became a booming town like all the provincial capitals in Laos, due to massive investment from neighbouring countries. Particularly the improvement of route no. 3 and the construction of the new Thailand/Laos Friendship Bridge No. 4 (opened in December 2013) gave the place more importance.

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Damming the Mekong

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Politics with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on April 20, 2014 by Thim Kwai

The Mekong River is still a widely unindustrialized green river over most of it’s course. It’s the river with the second largest biodiversity on earth and a food source for 65 million people. Now the Mekong is under threat. A series of dams are planned on the main course of the river. Additionally there are dozends of more dams planned, under construction or already operating at the Mekong’s many tributaries. The Mekong River’s ecology is under severe threat…

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The Mekong River

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , on April 18, 2014 by Thim Kwai

The Mekong River is Southeast Asia’s biggest river in length, water volume and catchment area. But, above all, it’s the river with the largest biodiversity in Asia. There are still animals who are not yet discovered. The Mekong also hosts the most greatest sweetwater fish on earth; among them the Giant Catfish and a huge sweetwater stingray with a wingspan of 4.30m, what is half the length of a bus.

The Mekong is also home of a few last couples of Irrawaddy Dolphins, a sweetwater dolphin who lived in the past in numbers up to thousands in the river.

Sourcing in the majestic glacier world of the Tibetan Plateau in 5,000m altitude, the Mekong River makes his way over more than 4,800km through south China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and south Vietnam, where it meets the South China Sea.

Fisheries catch annually 2.6 million tons of fish out of the river, what feeds about 65 million people in Southeast Asia. The magnificent’s rivers landscapes invite to a journey along the stream.

Pay a visit to the Mekong River

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This is only a part of the richly illustrated article ‘The Mekong River’. Read here the whole article on The Mekong River.

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Cambodia’s Ecology

Posted in Countries, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , , , , , on July 19, 2013 by Thim Kwai

A great problem in Cambodia is deforestation. In the last 40 years a major part of the formerly huge tropical rain forests has been cut or burned. In 1970 Cambodia was covered by 70% with tropical rain forest, what was decreased to 3.1% in 2007. That makes the highest deforestation rate in the world. That is partially due to legal and more illegal logging for the export into the neighbouring countries of Thailand and Vietnam, partially for the errection of huge cash crop plantations as rubber, cashew nut and more. The process is rapidly ongoing.

(See also the report on the Ratanakiri Page on deforestration there)

Although the Cambodian government officially put laws in power for protecting the environment, these laws in reality mean little or nothing. Corruption opens ways for logging activities. Critics and rangers who take forest protection serious get not seldom intimidated, attacked and sometimes killed.

A recent example are the Kardamom Mountains, where 20,000 hectares of the rain forest are planned to be destroyed for another hydroelectric dam project at the Areng River in the Areng Valley. As always in such cases a great number of (rare) animals (like the Siam Crocodile, of which only a few hundred individuals survived in the wild and the Asian Elephant together with 277 other animal species of whom are 31 threatened) and plants are threatened, as well as nine villages of the local mountain tribe of the Khmer Daeum (translatable to ‘original Khmers’). Operator is the Chinese Guodian Corporation. The Kardamom Mountains are one of the last bigger refuges for wildlife and nature and the area is part of a protected National Park. The construction of the dam with the infrastructural attributes like roads will lead to the usual secondary effects as poaching, illegal logging and more and more building activities.

Appraisal reports show that the construction of the dam would even be inefficient in it’s economical outcome and it’s power production. Other companies, who planned a similar dam project in the region withdrew their plans for these reasons.

By the way, the organisation ‘Rainforest Rescue’ started a petition to be sent to the Guodian Corporation and the Cambodian Government. You find the link here:

https://www.rainforest-rescue.org/mailalert/917/cambodia-stop-the-flooding-of-the-cardamom-forest

Another example of how little protection and National Parks mean is the Bokor National Park. Here, on a high plain in the forested mountains is a new city with housing for a 100,000 people and a complete infrastructure including ‘pleasure’ accommodations like huge hotels with casinos under construction.

The mangrove forests along the coastlines fall victim to coalmaking and shrimp farms. Consequences of the deforestation are soil erosion and the change of local climates. The soil erosion leads to unfertile land and to sedimentation of lakes and rivers.

The depth of the Tonle Sap Lake (the greatest lake in Indochina) decreased between 1960 and 1993 from an average of 50cm in dry season to 30cm. The Tonle Sap is part of the Mekong River ecosystem; the four or five dams built in recent years at the upper Mekong in China (where the Mekong is called ‘Lancang River’) demand their tribute. Also, the Mekong River transports great amounts of sediments sourcing out of the deforested areas of it’s catchment area.

The Mekong dams far up in China have additionally an impact on the richness in fish, because they are cutting off migratory fish species from their spawning areas. A much greater impact will follow due to the ongoing construction of the Sanyabury dam in Laos.

Officially are 25% of Cambodias territory under natural protection. But again, in fact this protection means little and does not deserve it’s name.

Cambodia also is one of the dirty, the very dirty countries. Litter is dropped everywhere. The market places are usually the ugliest places in the towns where masses of rubbish come together and are piled up. Almost everywhere where people live, litter is around. The litter, consisting of plastic of all kind, engine oil remains, electronics rubbish and also food remains, is a phantastic hotbed for vermins. Among them are flies. Flies in masses. Amounts of flies who darken the sky.

That makes hygiene a serious matter in Cambodia. Food hygiene in the verymost of the restaurants, including the ‘better’ ones (means more expensive, equipped with better furniture) is in the majority of the cases not even given on a basic level. The bad habit of most of the Cambodian people to spit food remains out onto the ground and generally litter everything they want to get rid of on the ground just where they are at the moment, is not only optically bad looking but feeds flies, cockroaches and other vermins.

The increasing amounts of plastic waste (bags, bottles, covers etc.) are a big problem. One-way plastic covers are generally a very bad solution for they waste first resources and second cause a problem in disposal. There is no ‘professional’ solution for waste disposal, so the plastic ends up in the green and on the streets, sporadically burned by the local authorities on dump sites outside the towns or burned in little garden fires by local people.

Apart from these impacts the air is of good quality in most of Cambodia, except Phnom Penh, because there are no big industries to pollute it. The same is said about the water in the most rivers; it’s quality is comparably good. Questionable is the usage of pesticides in agriculture and it’s hidden poisons.

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This is only a part of the illustrated article ‘Cambodia’. Read the whole article on Cambodia by Asienreisender.

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Kampong Cham / Cambodia

Posted in Latest of Asienreisender, Places with tags , , , on May 14, 2013 by Thim Kwai

The old colonial city of Kampong Cham is placed 125km southeast of the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on the right banks of the Mekong River. It’s the fourth biggest city in Cambodia (about 120,000 inhabitants), what does not mean much. The only really big city is Phnom Penh and all the others are rather towns. Nevertheless it’s developing and growing fast. There is not much tourism in Kampong Cham; it lacks major tourist sights and does not offer much touristic activity for visitors.

The name of the place gives a hint to the local ethnic group living here, at least of the past. ‘Kampong’ means village (very similar to the Malayan word ‘kampung’, also for village) and ‘Cham’ refers to the Champa People. The Champa empire was one of the first empires in Southeast Asia and a long-term rival of the Khmer empire of Angkor.

A bit outside of Kampong Cham is an medieval Khmer temple, Wat Nokor Bachey to visit. Wat Nokor is one of the small cultural treasures of Cambodia.

Have a look for the whole, richly illustrated article on Kampong Cham

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The Mekong River between Chiang Khong and the Golden Triangle

Posted in Landscapes, Latest of Asienreisender with tags , , , on March 12, 2013 by Thim Kwai

I personally know the river section between Chiang Khong/Huayxai and the Golden Triangle since 2006. The road along the riverbanks, it’s about sixty kilometers, is among the most picturesque roads I have ever seen. A small road with potholes and little traffic, mountains and here and there a small village. That’s at least what it was at the beginning of my observations until recently.

Due to the massive economic growth in the Southeast Asian world region there is permanent construction activity. The construction and the automobile sectors are Capitalistic key sectors for any modern economy. In Thailand and the neighbouring countries the traffic growth is enormous (see also: Traffic in Thailand). Every year millions of cars are blown out onto the streets. It’s coming together with the cement industries who are employed to build a number of big projects, particularly highways and bigger roads, but also the new river port at Chiang Saen, the new Mekong Bridge at Chiang Khong/Huayxai and huge areas with terraced houses and now also big river dams. Besides there are many building sites right and left of the parallel road to the river where are new business buildings, stores, temples, administration buildings or private houses are built. I frequently pass on this road every fortnight, and I every time see more and new building activities. That’s so on the Thai side of the Mekong River as well as I see it on the Laotian side.

Observing the river over long afternoons makes me see growing activities on it. More and more boats are passing by. Bigger building sites appear and change the river banks into ugly concrete. Only one bad example is the huge casino construction at the Golden Triangle with a number of additional buildings.

In a few month there will be the 4th Thai/Laos Friendship Bridge opened, linking Chiang Khong/Thailand and Huayxai/Laos. It’s the link for the big traffic between south China and Thailand. Again more traffic will boost, far more trucks than now together with more private cars. Chinese tourism is on the rise in the states where the Mekong is passing through. I see already many cars with Chinese number plates in Chiang Khong. That is just the beginning. There will be more, more, more – more of everything.

The industrialization comes together with a population which has no sense for environmental concerns. The People of Thailand and Laos litter, waste and burn as they can. The surroundings of the river suffered deforestration here already decades ago. Agriculture comes with fertilizers and chemicals. Much of it runs into the river. All the waste water of the villages is drained directly in it.

Overfishing is a big issue. The villagers take out of the river as much as they can. If they don’t eat it themselves, they sell it on the markets. The Giant Catfish, which once appeared in a great number, was a few years ago still living here, but is now just history.

As mentioned above, there are already at least four dams implemented at the upper Mekong in China. They have impact on the water flow. Mekong water in China is used for irrigation. This water is no more flowing down. Sometimes there is so much water taken out, that the river level falls down. In other times there is much rain there and suddenly they flood the river, opening the dams floodgates. Then suddenly the river gardens in the Chiang Saen / Chiang Khong region are flooded.

The Sanyabury Dam and all the dams who will follow it will have the greatest impact also for the river section here. I dedicated a whole article on ‘Damming the Mekong‘, because that is the biggest issue.

To summarize my concerns, I have to claim that here, in the greater Mekong subregion a considerable part of the world’s ecology is going to die. That means a huge step forwards for mankind towards the ‘point of no return’, from when on it’s too late to recover from the global world destruction.

Capitalism is blind dynamics. It’s following an internal code or an inner law. All the development is not for the sake of the people, but only for profit. Making two dollars out of one. Doesn’t matter the consequences.

Besides, the quality of everything what is built here is miserable. Many things are already broken before completed. So, the next step is to either fix the broken parts or let it rotten. In reality both happens. But, in fact, it’s all rotten crap what the industries built here, not meaned to last long. Repairing is following business. And means more environmental impact. And so it goes on, without end.

Well, so it seems. There will be an end. This global socioeconomic system will not come over the mid of the 21st century. When all the basics of our needs, the natural resources are wasted and polluted, we won’t survive.

For more information on the development of this region read ‘The Modernization of Lanna‘.

Read the whole article on the Mekong River