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New Year to see first Mekong River Descent

Travel News Asia 31 December 2003

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 OShea, has lived in the Mekong region for more than four years. "I am inspired by the regions 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 Lagre and then Francis Garnier (after Legre's death in China), was the first attempt to navigate the whole river - which failed.

Apart from showcasing the Mekong regions environment, heritage and culture, Mr. OShea 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.

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