Mekong River: Another Travel Adventure

Jun 6, 2015 | 2015 Articles, Maria Ruiz, Travel

by Maria Ruiz

Maria often shares stories with us about Santa Barbara history, her travel all over the world, her dogs, and life.

Asia. The land of pagodas, jade Buddhas, and stir fried foods. What we knew about Asia we could put in a pot sticker at the local Chinese restaurant. We had done Central America and Europe and it was time to move on. Going east seemed the logical next place.

We pulled out a map of the world and looked at the Asian continent. Right dab in the middle sits Thailand. We had heard that it was a western friendly place and easy to visit, so we went.

After we landed in Bangkok, we discovered that we needed a year’s visa which could only be gotten out of the country. The closest place to go was Georgetown, Malaysia.

We rode the train down to Malaysia and soon got it.

With our year’s visa in hand, we discovered that we still needed to leave the country every 90 days. (The same rules are in effect in Malaysia and Indonesia) We could walk across the border with any of the countries bordering Thailand and come back the same day, but we must cross. We took that as an opportunity to visit all the countries in Asia during our two and a half years there.


Mekong River Journey

Winding its way south from China, the Mekong is the 12th longest river in the world and flows along and between Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Burma, and Vietnam It ends at Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, where millions of people live their whole lives on boats. There are stores and shops, craftsmen plying their trades, children attending school and fish farms all afloat on small vessels. People use smaller boats like cars, to transport them from one big boat to another, to deliver the mail, and to go shopping. We rode on a medium sized water taxi that rang a bell to alert the locals when it arrived. They came out on smaller boats and collected passengers or packages to take them back to their dwellings.

Boats selling vegetables hang samples on a pole so people can choose where to go; corn cobs, squash, and other vegetables are tied high above the deck. One large boat housed a casket maker and the roof was covered with lovely coffins. travel

We visited a family fish farm and watched as the father opened the trap door into the giant net that held hundreds of fish beneath the large flat boat. The sons tossed in handfuls of little food pellets that they made themselves, and the feeding frenzy made the water boil. Most of the boat was dedicated to the farm but a large cabin at one end was the living quarters for the family.


Fish Farm

Every morning, as the dogs woke up they would bark to one another. Then one would jump off his boat and swim to visit a neighbor. Noses would touch and then the swimmer would return home. Babies crawled around on decks and children played on planks. Most of them will never leave the boat communities their entire lives.

One thing that impressed me was the fact that the river is brown. It looks like it has a lot of silt in it. I don’t know how anything can see in that water but it is alive with fish. It also seemed to be quite shallow and I wondered if one could walk across it. However, it takes lives every year. travel

During the monsoons it becomes a raging torrent. All along the Mekong in every country where it flows, houses and buildings are built on stilts that hold them high above the flooding rampage to which the boats are immune. This river truly defines the life of the people who live on and near it.


River House

Maria Ruiz was born in Santa Barbara, California; her family had been there since the Spaniards first converted the Indians & created small towns. She graduated from the University of San Diego State in 1972 & taught for 8 years before starting her own business. After retiring she began a ten-year odyssey to visit and live in 57 countries around the world. She just recently relocated to California. Her book, I’ll be in the Fourth Grade Forever, can be ordered on Smashwords & Amazon. Her blog can be found at


  1. Maria shares sights and sounds to make a story come alive. Loved the story about the swimming dog to see his neighbor. Would have never thought to write about this incident.

  2. I like the way you narrow down all the experiences you’ve had into concise, interesting, and human stories anyone can relate. I loved the dogs swimming to touch noses…!

  3. Never tire of Marias stories.
    heard it before and enjoyed it all over again.

  4. Adventures abroad are such welcome stories, dragging us away from our routines, Thanks

  5. Hi Maria – love your journal and in country insight. I am strongly considering traveling to Thailand and as a single woman. Wondering if u could offer any personal direction. I’d like to do some humanitarian work if possible. Thanks for anything! Again, pleasure reading your posts!


    • Wendy. There are a lot of single women that travel in Thailand, especially in the Chiang Mai area. You just have to avoid trouble areas like in any kind of travel. It’s cheap and delightful. It help to join a group or a class and meet others with your same interests. There is a large expat group in Chiang Mai and several good oil painting classes. Probably many more. Enjoy.

  6. Dear Maria,
    Your stories are enthralling as I enjoy and imagine the travels you and Ted have undertaken. I am sure you have many more in the two and one half years you spent in Asia. Memories of a lifetime, that I Hope you can share with us soon.
    Your clear and direct writing style makes it so easy for us to sit on your virtual shoulder as you take us along on your adventures. Keep writing for our total delight!

  7. I always enjoy reading Maria’s stories. I didn’t know some people live on boats their entire lives. I, too, love the dog visits.
    Reading Maria’s tales makes me realize how lucky we really are living in the US.


  8. Wow, Maria. So interesting about the visa process.


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