The River's Tale by Edward Gargan
A Year on the Mekong

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The River’s Tale is a deeply informed personal chronicle of a remarkable journey down the Mekong River as it runs through China, Tibet, Burma, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. In it Edward A. Gargan tells a stirring tale of adventure that reveals the Mekong’s many worlds.

Beginning in 1998, Gargan was at last able to pursue his long-held dream of traveling the three thousand miles of the river and lingering where he wished. He was, in a sense, coming to terms with places and peoples with which he had already linked his life. His youthful opposition to the Vietnam War had been the first manifestation of his passionate interest in Asia, where he subsequently spent much of his career as a New York Times correspondent.

His travels show us a kind of modernity settling uneasily on regions still mired in backwardness and poverty, and shadows that linger so many years after the end of the Vietnam War. We visit Internet cafés in dirt-streeted towns near thatched-hut villages without electricity. The magnificent Angkor Wat, a hub of tourism, is surrounded by the ruins engendered by Pol Pot’s genocidal reign. We see plodding mule trains caravanning sacks of opium through Burma on their way to China to be processed and distributed to the West. Tibetan horsemen adorned in silver and amber jewelry herd yaks across endless grasslands as their ancestors did, though their culture is under siege by the Chinese. Vietnamese salesmen scooter around Saigon hawking American soaps, passing by outcast children fathered by American soldiers and left behind. Buddhism flowers in a Laos ravaged by communism. Sex tourism thrives in prosperous Thailand, a trade chiefly involving teenagers, who pay a deadly price.

And throughout, there is the Mekong—shaping landscapes, linking cultures, sustaining populations, showcasing spectacular beauty. Edward Gargan is an acutely observant, sympathetic guide to a fascinating world, and he has written a powerful and lyrical book.

About Edward Gargan

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Edward A. Gargan worked as a foreign correspondent and bureau chief for the New York Times in West Africa, China, India, and Hong Kong, was a magazine writer for the Los Angeles Times, and now covers Asia for Newsday. He was an Edward R. Murrow Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations and is the author of China's Fate. He is based in Beijing and has a home on Martha's Vineyard, Massachusetts.
Published January 22, 2002 by Knopf. 304 pages
Genres: Travel, Nature & Wildlife, Science & Math. Non-fiction

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In Cambodia, for example, he finds the social destruction wrought by genocide lingering beneath the surface of optimistic recovery, while a popular nightclub in Saigon patterned after the film Apocalypse Now demonstrates that the Vietnamese remain dominated by the conflict they supposedly “won.” ...

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Publishers Weekly

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A chronicle of a year-long journey along the nearly 3,000 miles of the Mekong River as it descends from the Tibetan plateau through southern Asia, Gargan's book is a vivid look at the disparate peoples settled the length of the river's path.

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