The Mekong winds 3,000 miles from China through Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. As it forms the border between Laos and Thailand, its waters finally become navigable before flowing southwards into Cambodia and feeding into Vietnam’s rich Mekong delta and the South China Sea. It’s this southernmost stretch of water that Avalon Mekong river cruises focus on, gliding past the jungle-clad hills, outdoor markets, decaying Buddhist temples and shimmering rice paddies of Cambodia and Vietnam. A lifeline for civilisations through the ages, the first recorded settlements along the river date to the 1st century BC. During the Vietnam War, the Mekong’s west banks became a base for raids against communist forces in Laos. Since then, the Mekong has become increasingly important as a source of economic prosperity, although much of its valley remains undeveloped and untouched. Today, over 60 million people still depend directly on its waters, using them for irrigation, washing and fishing. An Avalon Mekong River cruise reveals a privileged glimpse into everyday life in this fascinating area.