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Photo: Photographer Ben Lowy
Photographer Ben Lowy
Laos by Riverboat
Along the Mekong River, Southeast Asia's superhighway, Laos is one small country that delivers big.

Pulsing through China, Thailand, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam, the Mekong River has long served as a lifeline for Southeast Asia. And for the 60 million people who reside in the river's floodplain, it's not only a source of income, but also a way of life.

For "Southbound on the Mekong" (read excerpt), photographer Ben Lowy and writer Jamie James hitched a ride on the river in Yunnan, China, pushing on to four other countries, including Laos, where poor but peaceful Laotians make visitors feel welcome. The hospitality took 25-year-old Lowy, who earned his journalistic stripes embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq, by surprise.

"In the Middle East, nobody would smile at me until I explained myself and got them to accept me," says Lowy. "But when you walk down the street in Laos, people are all smiles."

After colossal bombing during the Vietnam War, Laotians proved resilient; and their country has become a hidden treasure of Southeast Asia. The landlocked nation has pristine mountain jungles, ancient Khmer ruins, sacred Buddhist caves, not to mention the mighty Mekong. See it for yourself—view outtakes from Lowy's remarkable voyage through Laos.

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June/July 2004

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