Even though the Mekong originates in the Tibetan Highlands and flows through China, its true source lies within South East Asia, in Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, fascinating countries whose inhabitants can look back proudly on both a colourful and glorious past. Around thirty five kilometres from the capital of Pnohm Penh the jungle temple of Ta Prohm is a unique combination of both nature and culture. Colossal feigen, banyan and kapok trees cover the splendid temple site and their huge roots intermingle with the ruins and thus give the sanctuary a magical atmosphere. Most of the country's traditional dances date back to the Angkor Period. The dancers of the classical and extremely complex Apsara dance once enjoyed great respect and were given the status of divine beings and they were considered to be mediators between Heaven and Earth.For many centuries the Tonle Sap, the largest fresh water lake in South East Asia, was a vital source of water for around ten per cent of Cambodia's population. It is also of great importance for wildlife. Innumerable villages and houseboats fill the Tonle Sap with life. Furthermore, the extraordinary biodiversity of the indigenous bird population is truly remarkable. The lake, and particularly the bird reserve at Prek Toal, are a true paradise for ornithologists.Over four hundred Buddhist temples are to be found in Bangkok. One of the most important is the magnificently designed Wat Phra Kaeo that, in addition to many other valuable treasures, also contains the Emerald Buddha.Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is an exceptionally beautiful city with many lakes and parks. Despite its three and a half million inhabitants Hanoi is a relatively easy-going city. It boasts an amazing number of beautiful and historic monuments. The Mekong is a unique habitat that comprises some of the most impressive countries in South East Asia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, countries whose fascinating cultures are both historic and enchantingly exotic.
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