The Mekong River – A Journey of a Lifetime

Photographer: Dante Scarano

Location: Mekong River

Website: Don’t Panic – Travel Guide

 The Mekong River – A Journey of a Lifetime

The boat, though more of a wooden bus that glided down the river, was an old and creaky ship somewhat similar to a European canal boat. The seats were repurposed minivan bench seats still equipped with unusable seatbelt slots. Towards the back, the engine laid fully exposed. Belts whirled, and pistons pumped, all for everyone to hear making it extremely tough to get any shuteye. The air was hot and cumbersome, thick enough to cut with a knife, and without the boat moving there was no refreshing breeze. In a flash travelers came spilling out of nowhere, people from all over the globe creating a dysfunctional and half-drunk United Nations.

The motors kicked on and with a swift push of the dockhand’s foot the boat set off cruising down the river in no time. The ship was filled with mostly weary travelers looking for a more scenic route, but there were some locals on board as well. A bottle of a cheap imitation of Red Stag was passed around for anyone to take a swig of, as the mood quickly turned jovial. In the back of the boat, smoke came billowing out like a chimney fire, folks smoking a mix between the locally sold banana leaf cigars, and hand rolled cigarettes. The perfect quiet spot was in the middle section of the boat, between the rowdy seating area and the slowly mellowing smoking area, right next to the engine.

The Mekong River – A Journey of a Lifetime

This area was majestic in every sense. Hills sprawling endlessly colored the landscape emerald green, filling the canvas of this area and creating vast jungles untouched by the horrors previous wars. Salted water rushed endlessly around the edge of the boat, forming a dirty brown color contrasting to the natural blues and greens one would associate with water. Mountains stuck through the mist gave the impression the clouds themselves were being cut in twain by cliff faces. These incredible sights could make a traveler feel that they had floated down a river, to only arrive at the mythical lost city of Shangri-La. Thinking of all those warnings of how dangerous this area could be, and how false they were, there is not a more peaceful place on this entire planet.

As the day rolled on into the evening, the sun was finally setting swirling the sky a mixture of coral and purple as the boat reached its first stop. Everyone excitedly exited the boat into Pakbeng, a village strictly based around the tourism of the stopping over for the night. Guesthouses lined the streets as their owners stood outside offering tours of their rooms and a “fair” price to rent. While the only nightlife in the town consisted of a dimly lit dive called, “Happy Bar” which every traveler from the boat flocked to and enjoyed until the wee hours of the morning.

The cry of the rooster meant it was the crack of dawn, and when everyone boarded began its departure. The vessel had a sort of hush about it everyone now slumped silently holding their throbbing heads as hangovers set in. Though despite their ailments some travelers could tolerate it more than others, and a soft chatter began again throughout the boat.

In the distance, children sang and danced in the morning sun as the boat motored past. The commerce on the water was booming, fishers and their sons casting out large nets, going about their daily lives to provide food. Occasionally a long boat or a motorboat passed bringing just locals back up the river towards Thailand. They smiled and waved as if to greet us into their country, a sight that is not easily forgotten. The sights and the smiling faces of locals instantly proved wrong any perception of the Mekong River. This area was now bursting with happiness and beauty.

Hours quickly melted into minutes, and conversations with fellow travelers flowed from travel sickness to plans of travel into Vietnam. Eventually, the boat came into docks of Luang Prabang. Though the traveling was monotonous and at times boring, being confined in one spot for eight hours a day, I would never trade it for a cushy bus or plane ride.

The Mekong River – A Journey of a Lifetime

My name is Dante Scarano; I am a 24-year-old explorer that enjoys the little things in life, writing, and photography to name a few. I grew up in a sleepy small town on the coastline in Connecticut in the United States; this suburban hell is what pushed me to find out more about the world. I recently received my degree in History, which further drove me to go and explore more about the histories and cultures that fill the world. When I’m not on the road eating from any and every food stall, I work at a seafood restaurant as a cook where I daydream about traveling every day. (Don’t worry I don’t burn the food!) Usually in the summer, on my off days I longboard around my town, and in the winter I snowboard. Two hobbies that I would very much like to incorporate into my travels someday.

From a young age I was exposed to flying, something so un-natural for us as human beings to do, it totally freaks me out. So many people ask me, “How can you love to travel and yet be so afraid of flying?” The answer I think is obvious while true, flying does make me into a nervous wreck, there is some otherworldly desire that I have to travel. Whether it is the goofy adventures I seem to get myself into, traditions to learn about, or culture to experience first hand, I think that is enough fuel for me to overcome the initial fear of flying.

My first trip out of the country was to the land of Japan. A culture and language so vastly different than mine, it would make any New Englander’s head spin. I was definitely thrown into the deep end, up to my eyes in not having a clue what to say, or do. Through countless days of Jetlag and using my pointer finger to order food, I emerged a hardy traveler ready to take on the world. I think it is this unknown that keeps drawing me back into traveling through countries vastly more different than my own.[/box_section]


Photojournal is all about expressive or dramatic photos that tell a thousand words. Each photo represents the photographer’s emotions at the precise moment of capturing the picture which, in some aspects, is immortalized through digital print.

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  • Have you been to Mekong River?
  • How was your experience?