Any notion of sailing up the Mekong in homage to Francis Garnier has been unthinkable until now. From its delta in Vietnam up through Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Burma and on into China, the Mekong has been a no-go river, its turbulent waters fouled by ideological barriers as formidable as its natural obstacles. But recently the political obstacles have begun to be dismantled – river traffic is reviving.
John Keay describes the world of the Mekong as it is today, rehabilitating a traumatised geography while recreating the thrilling and historic voyage of Garnier in 1866. The French expedition was intended to investigate the ‘back door’ into China by outflanking the British and American conduits of commerce at Hong Kong and Shanghai. Two naval gunboats headed upriver into the green unknown, bearing crack troops, naturalists, geologists and artists. The two-year expedition’s failures and successes, and the tragedy and acrimony that marked it, make riveting reading.
Reviews of Mad About the Mekong
‘An excellent, fascinating, and timely book.’ Spectator
‘A breathtaking account of one of the greatest ever feats of exploration.’ Literary Review
‘Impeccable…Keay tells the story of the expedition’s slow unravelling with the quiet and masterly authority that characterises all his books…the book is a splendid piece of travel writing, too…Keay has painted quite brilliantly a portrait of the river and those intrepid Europeans who first ventured onto it.’ Sunday Times
‘Entertaining…Keay anthropomorphises the Mekong with terrific verve and imagination throughout this delightful book.’ Sunday Telegraph
‘Told with a gusto that does not cloak the hideous dangers and discomforts encountered by the expedition…Keay writes eloquently and his vivid descriptions are supported by the scrupulous research that is the hallmark of all his work. Whether as a history, a travel book or just a study in group dynamics, “Mad About the Mekong” makes rewarding reading.’ Daily Telegraph