From its source in the high Himalayan Mountains to its mouth in the China Sea, the Mekong Rive r flows nearly 4,200 kilometers. Fifty million people draw their livelihood from its waters.
In 1992, Captain Cousteau organized a great expedition to the Mekong: Calypso patrolled the lower section of the river that irrigates four countries, while a small team aboard two wooden vessels explored the section above the falls that block the river at the border between Laos and Cambodia, a challenging adventure in a troubled region short of modern infrastructures. With no electricity, the small team had to live like the local people, by the rhythm of the sun.
Little by little, the Mekong unveiled its thousand faces: impetuous torrent in the Chinese mountains, turbulent river in the narrow valleys of Laos and Thailand, majestic flow in the vast alluvial plain of Cambodia and Vietnam, where it finally let itself be tamed. The river provided water to drink for all the inhabit ants and domestic animals. Vegetables were rinsed in it, soup prepared of it, dishes washed in it. The Mekong was there to cleanse everyone's clothes and body. It was also the sewer, the communication line and the playground for children.
On the banks of the Mekong, majestic ruins of times past recalled how the river 's waters were laden with history. A thousand years ago, the Khmer empire built the largest religious edifices in the world. A route of cultural and commercial exchange, the Mekong was the subject of much attention. Every year, people who lived along the river organized great ceremonies in its honour. In Thailand, the Cousteau team attended the Songkran festival that marked both the new year and the return of the rainy season. The spirit of the dragon was venerated: it lives in the river and holds in its paws the des tiny of all those who sail thereon.