We have named our tours after several famous Laos explorers and adventurers who battled disease, war, and wild animals while discovering this beautiful country.
These intrepid 19th century adventurers were inspired by the mystic of the Mekong River and travelled to South East Asia to discover new civilisations, ethnic tribes, fauna and flora and hopefully riches. Even today because of the mountainous terrain, sections of the river are very isolated and in several villages along the Mekong, we were the first Europeans ever to have visited.
The Mekong is the world’s twelfth longest river at over 4,300 kms long. It rises on the Tibetan Plateau and flows through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and finally Vietnam before discharging into the South China Sea.
It’s the lifeblood for over 60 million people who are dependent on its flow of nutrient laden water for food and agriculture, whose very existence and livelihoods are now threatened by many planned dams.
It has the most concentrated biodiversity per hectare of any river in the world, surpassing even the Amazon and is home to some of the largest freshwater fish in the world (see story on the 300 kg giant catfish Here ).
Auguste Jean-Marie Pavie (1847 – 7 May 1925) was a French explorer and adventurer in Indochina who carried out a daring rescue mission and won the trust of the Luang Prabang ruler, and became the first French vice-consul there in 1885.
Louis Delaporte (1842 – 1925) was a French explorer, who was selected for the 1866 to 1868 French Mekong River exploration led by Ernest Doudard de Lagrée and Francis Garnier to find a river trading route to China from the French colonies in Indochina.
Delaporte was a naval officer, and was chosen because of his artistic talent to record the expedition. The incredible drawings done by Delaporte on this French Mekong River expedition were used to illustrate Garnier’s account of the voyage.
The expedition was blighted with a series of disasters including malaria, but the team pressed on and remarkably surveyed and mapped 6,000 km of the Mekong River, charting its course from its mouth in Vietnam through Cambodia, into Thailand, Laos, Burma and finally into China.
They discovered a nearly deserted Angkor Wat all overgrown, and when they pulled ashore at Chiang Saen in present day Thailand, there were tigers and rhinos roaming outside the city walls.
If you are interested there is a great read on the expedition called River Road to China: The Search for the Source of the Mekong, 1866-73 (Search for the Sources of the Mekong, 1866-73) by Milton Osborne. It’s available on Amazon here.
Ernest Doudart de Lagrée (1823 – 1868) was born in Grenoble, France. He joined the navy and served in the Crimean War, then moved to Indochina for health reasons, before being appointed to lead the French Mekong Expedition of 1866-1868 to find a river trading route to China from Saigon.
The expedition left Saigon on June 5, 1866. By the time the expedition reached Dongchuan, in China (present day Kunming in Yunnan) nearly 2 years later, he was too sick with malaria and dysentery to be moved and died shortly after from a cyst on his liver.
In 1869 at the Geographical Congress in Antwerp, Francis Garnier received posthumously an explorer’s award which he shared with David Livingstone. In 1870 he received the highest award an explorer of any nation could possibly receive the more prestigious Patron’s Medal of the Royal Geographical Society in London.
Louis de Carné was a member of the famous French Mekong expedition of 1866–1868 which travelled up the Mekong River from Saigon in Vietnam, hoping to discover a navigable trade route and exert political influence in the region.
Aged only 23, he was Governor de Carné’s nephew, attached to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He was to report back on the trade and political opportunities that he encountered on his journey and wrote a book about his adventures Travels on the Mekong in Cambodia, Laos and Yunnan: The political and trade report of the Mekong Exploration Commission, June 1866-June 1868 which can be bought on Amazon .
Local legend has it that in ancient times Buddha was travelling down the Mekong River and decided to stop for lunch. But on every island they stopped at, there were graveyards or cremation sites so they decided to press on, finally stopping at a small shady island where they could escape the midday sun.
Then in the 16th century under the Lao king Setthathirath who ruled the kingdom of Lan Xang (which included Chiang Mai in Thailand, which he overpowered with a large army including 2,000 war elephants and 300,000 soldiers in 1546) he built a temple on the island to pay his respects.
It was named Wat Don Koun which means Good Luck Island Temple.