The Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) is encouraging travel, tourism
and media organisations to consider supporting and sponsoring the Mekong First Descent Project (MFDP) -- an attempt to kayak the full length
of the Mekong River, from Tibet to the South China Sea in March-April 2004.
The Mekong First Descent would be the longest ever navigation of the
Mekong, including the rapids and falls, passing through the six nations of
the Greater Mekong Subregion -- Cambodia, China (PRC), Laos PDR, Myanmar, Thailand and Vietnam. The goal is to produce a documentary
that will present the culture, heritage and potential for travel and adventure
in the region.
Mekong First Descent kayaker, Laos PDR-based adventure tour operator,
Mr. Mick O’Shea, has lived in the Mekong region for more than four years.
"I am inspired by the region’s diverse environments and cultures and feel
that not enough is known about them internationally," he said.
The Mekong is one of the last great rivers yet to be navigated from source
to sea. The Marco Polo Expedition is presumed to have crossed the Mekong in 1278. The French Mekong Expedition of 1866-1868, led by
Doudart de Lagrée and then Francis Garnier (after Legrée's death in China), was the first attempt to navigate the whole
river - which failed.
Apart from showcasing the Mekong region’s environment, heritage and
culture, Mr. O’Shea hopes that the expedition and documentary will help
create a more balanced perspective on travel: "Recent negative publicity,
as a result of SARS and the war on terror have created misconceptions about the risks of travel to Asia," he said.
Proceeds from the sale of the documentary will go to the PATA
Foundation to support tourism-related community projects in the Mekong region.