The Mighty Mekong, and the Bridge

Brian Wed, 2015-07-01 23:39

In April, work was completed on a bridge over the Mekong River just north of Neak Loeung, Cambodia. Before the bridge, everything stopped at Neak Loeung while your bus/car/motorcycle negotiated passage on a ferry over the river. It's progress, but me, I liked the stop/ferry. I've posted about it before. I'm a member of a group of FB nerds in Cambodia, and I wrote this to them. Maybe you'll like it.

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I travel a lot to eastern Cambodia and Viet Nam. I'm sure many, many people like the bridge over the Mekong on Highway 1. Me, I really miss the stop and the ferry. Yes, it was, for many, an inconvenience, it slowed you down. But it had character, Cambodian character. Yes, the street vendors crowded around and desperately tried to sell you stuff you didn't want. But they were ekeing out a living, a living that isn't available any more. Some of them have gone and set up stalls where the traffic from the bridge meets up again with the old Highway 1, but the bus doesn't stop. Their living is, largely, gone.

When your bus or other vehicle was on the ferry, there you were, on the Mekong, one of the most important rivers of the world, a river that provides a livelihood for 60 million people, right on it!, connected with all those people, if only in your imagination, not that those people had time to notice. You're on a bridge over the Mekong, you might as well spit on it. It's not important, your bus/vehicle is, it's taking you somewhere, you're too important to stop and cross this insignificant river. Look how high we are. Mekong, you don't matter.

I'll never forget the time my bus pulled up to the ferry dock just as the scene in "Killing Fields" was playing where the Khmer Rouge guerillas were coming over the hills, a scene that was taking place right there in Neak Loeung (though filmed in Thailand). How cool was that??? Every trip over the bridge is instantly forgotten.

There's a Lyle Lovett song, "If I had a boat."
If I had a boat
I'd go out on the ocean
And if I had a pony
I'd ride him on my boat
And we could all together
Go out on the ocean
Me upon my pony on my boat

When the ferry was crossing the Mekong, I'd be thinking about the 60 million people, but I'd be humming, "Me upon my bus upon my boat."


(Author's note: The original piece got the location of the filmiing of the scene at Neak Loeung wrong, so it's been edited.)