After many years, photographer Lam Duc Hien turned back to South East Asia and decided to take a journey along Mekong River. The journey with more than 4200km in length aimed at looking for his childhood and discovering the daily life on Mekong River.
The Mekong River Journey started
In 1988, the French photographer Lam Duc Hien got his way back to Laos, where he was grown up. He was petrified at the time he got on the Mekong River Cruise, where he had swam across to get a Thai refugee camp 13 years ago. His childhood memory, like a heavy and warm shower in the summer, suddenly invaded his mind.
“The Mekong: Stories of Man” is the name of his photo album which took the photographer 15 years to finish. Lam Duc Hien traveled 4200km, from Vietnam to the source of the mighty river, Tibetan Plateau, Mongolia. Mekong River is one of the longest rivers of the world. From the Tibetan Plateau the river runs through China’s Yunnan Province, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam.
According to Dr. C. Hart Schaaf – Former member of Mekong Committee, Mekong River is a sleeping giant, containing in its the enormous potentiality of hydroelectric power as well as flood and storm control and prevention. Here are some photos taken from the album “The Mekong: Stories of Man” which was displayed at the Ankor Exhibition from November 29th to December 6th, 2014 in Siem Reap, Cambodia.
Laos: With his intense patriotism, the photographer spent almost of the time to discover the daily life and religious habits of Lao people. The picture was taken in Tad Khuang Si. As you can see, children expressed their excitement on soaking themselves in the clear and cool water.
Turning back to Laos after 13 years living in France, his feelings and nostalgia for childhood poured like a heavy rain in summer. “Staring at the rains, I recognized the face of my grandmother and other old vendors somewhere on the road…”
Almost of Laos people earn their living by catching fish. However, over exploitation makes impacts on the biodiversity there. In addition, factories were mushrooming, polluting the environment. For that reason, the amount of fish is swindling year by year.
Every year, Laos people celebrate Lantern Festival on the 15th of November, when the moon reaches its fullest shape. On this occasion, people go to rivers and lakes to float colorful lanterns to the water. While floating, they pray luck, health and happiness for both their family and relatives. This is one of the most interesting traditional festival in Laos.
In Tad Khuang Si, monks worship pure water or “holy water” as a Buddha ceremony. During the ceremony, they do bath in this kind of water to celebrate the coming new year.
The most closest friends of Lao people are elephants. After the ceremony in Wat Phu, these elephants will be transferred by ferry, getting through Mekong River and turning back Boloven plateau. At present, there is only 500 elephants which are going wild in the jungle, the rest has been brought into intensive care in parks.
Blackening teeth is one of traditions of Laos women. Jet-black teeth and red lips are among elements to evaluate a beautiful woman.
Angkor Wat Cambodia is considered to be the summit of art and Khmer architecture in 13th century. However, this is the country of draught and poverty. In order to address these issues, the government built a hydroelectric system to ensure water supply & drainage.
Like Laos people, the Cambodian also take advantages of the Mekong river to exploit its enormous amount of fish. Giant carp in Mekong is considered to be the biggest freshwater fish of the world.
In small villages of China, growing rice is the most popular job. Chinese government is operating a big program on building damp for water and electric security.
These people are going on a pilgrimage to the peak of the world, Mongolia. In the end of every harvesting season, more than 20.000 Mongolians start their pilgrimage to different countries in the world.
Mekong River flows into the Southern Vietnam, creating a wide area of delta. People use the water and fertile of the river to grow rice. That’s the reason why Vietnam ranks 2nd on producing rice all over the world.
Ca Mau Province and the sea: “Kingdom” of refugees. Ca Mau Province used to be one of the main refugee camp from 1970 – 1980 of 20th century.