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The Mekong Basin Cultural Village

Village people THE BASIN OF THE great Mekong river, the world's 12th longest, stretches from southwestern China, where the river is born, to its wide-spreading delta where it meets the sea in southern Vietnam. It is home to many millions of people with different languages and cultures. It is a place of great mystery with deep gorges and mist-shrouded mountains, steeped in history and legends.

Few people ever get the chance to experience more than one or two of the region's cultures and traditions in their lives and the chance to immerse oneself in a mixture of Chinese, Thai, Burmese, Cambodian, Vietnamese and Laotian culture in one place is an opportunity not to be missed. Such a place is the remarkable Laan Tong Village located 12 kilometers west of Mae Chan town in Chiangrai province, on the road to Tha Ton.

Laan Tong Village covers an area of about 400 rai (160 acres or 64 hectares). Much of the Village is beautifully laid out with flowers and flowering shrubs, but it also has its own plantations of tea and paper mulberry and orchards of peaches and plums. The Village is set among the rolling hills of western Chiangrai and is a perfect spot for those wishing to unwind and enjoy the splendors of Mekong basin culture.

Here you will have the rare opportunity of seeing, and trying your hand at, ancient crafts executed as they were in older times. There is weaving on traditional looms, husking rice by pounding in a wooden mortar, forging of knives from base metal, silverware working, and the making of 'sa' paper from the soaked and pounded bark of mulberry bushes. These crafts are demonstrated by the people of the major hill tribes of Chiangrai including the Tai Yon, Hmong, Yao, Akha, Lahu, Lisu and Karen.

The lives of the people of the hills can be explored through visits to their communities and observation of their customs, and there are cultural performances from representatives of all the basin states. These are accompanied by brief yet informative explanations in English, Chinese and Thai.

A more modern way to travel the river But the Village gives far more. There are old-style oxcarts and elephants to transport the visitor from place to place, winding through the beautiful gardens, or up to the tea plantation high in the hills to see the gentle picking of the young leaves and the preparation of freshly made tea. There is river rafting for the more energetic and at the end of the day a great choice of dining on Chinese, Thai or international cuisine.

The centerpiece of the Village is the great bronze gong, the largest in the world, weighing 3 tons and 5 meters in diameter. Situated by the water's edge, water where the giant Mekong catfish swim, it is a truly imposing sight. Soon facilities will be available for overnight.

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