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Mekong River Journey

A Gentle Giant of a Catfish Fades From Sight

The Mekong between Huay Xai and Luang Prabang is lined with rocky outcrops. I thought these resembled the bony plates of a dragon and evoked the legend of the Naga (dragon/serpent) that lives in the Mekong.

The entrance to a Buddhist temple in Chiang Khong, Thailand with steps flanked by two Nagas. On the side is a shrine to the Buddha with a mural depicting Mekong river species, including the Mekong giant catfish.

A painting of a Mekong giant catfish on the side of a Buddhist temple in Chiang Khong, Thailand. The giant catfish were once plentiful here and supported a fishery, but none has been seen in more than a decade.

Our guide, Peng, the boat captain and Luca prepare bamboo poles with lines and baited hooks.

Luca with the bamboo poles that will be pushed into the river bottom with baited hooks overnight.

Luca follows along Peng and the captain during our afternoon of fishing.

Small fish we caught with cast nets.

Luca holding a black sharkminnow, a type of carp.

Dinner in the head man’s house in Ban Bo, Laos. The sharkminnow was featured in the fish curry in the center.

Our mattresses where we slept alongside three generations in the head man’s house in Ban Bo, Laos.

Children playing in the Mekong at Ban Bo, Laos.

Sunset on the Mekong at Ban Bo, Laos.

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