Mekong River With Sue Perkins

Season 1, Episode 1 of 4

The Mekong is South East Asia's greatest river, the 'Mother of Water' that brings life to millions of people from the paddy fields of Vietnam to the mountains of the Tibetan Plateau. In this ambitious, entertaining and illuminating series, Sue Perkins goes on an extraordinary journey, spanning nearly three thousand miles, to explore lives and landscapes on the point of enormous change. Across four episodes, she travels upstream through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and China, towards the Mekong's source high in the Himalayan glacier. Sue's epic journey begins in Vietnam, on the vast Mekong Delta, where she joins Si Hei, the 'Queen of the Noodle'. Starting at dawn, Si Hei and her eager new apprentice head out to sell noodle soup at the Delta's largest floating market - Cai Rang, a centre of commerce on the river that's endured for centuries. But communist Vietnam has one of the fastest growing economies in SE Asia, and change is coming to millions of people who live along the river. Vietnam is the world's second largest exporter of rice, so Sue moves upstream to the paddy fields where 80% of the Delta's 17 million people grow rice for a living. By day, she works with farmers Hung and Tuk in the paddies, and she spends the night with their family to find out how their lives are changing with the prospect of capitalism. Climate change and rising sea levels are slowly flooding the Delta with salt water, so Hung and Tuk are embracing a new but risky cash crop, prawns, in the hope to provide a better future for their children. Travelling up river, Sue crosses into Cambodia and its capital Phnom Penh, which lies at the confluence of the Mekong and the Tonle Sap river. It's a place tainted by the horrific genocide carried out by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. At the S21 detention centre, Sue meets one of only two of its prisoners still alive today, Chum Mey, before visiting the infamous genocide centre, known as the Killing Fields. To complete this first leg of her journey, Sue immerses herself in the lives of the people of Kuampang Pluk, an extraordinary village of stilted houses on the largest fresh water lake in Asia, Tonle Sap Lake. During her five-day stay, she goes fishing on the lake, the biggest inland fishery in the world, and learns how the livelihoods of small fishermen like Mr Lee are threatened by huge industrial boats exploiting the lake's resources. She makes friends with the fishermen's wives, getting to grips with village gossip; witnesses a local puppet show, where puppets are carved from cow hide and brought to life by graceful dancing and a roaring fire; and takes part in a traditional dragon boat race - with a dramatic and unscheduled dip in the river! Finally, she joins a magical harvest festival, Bon om Touk, when the people of the village and the Buddhist monks from the local temple sail onto the lake in beautifully decorated boats, to make offerings and give thanks to the Gods for the bounty of the Mekong River.

Previously Aired

10 p.m.
2 p.m.
11 a.m.
3 p.m.
2 p.m.
9 a.m.
2 p.m.
Arizona Public Media is a service of the University of Arizona and our broadcast stations are licensed to the Arizona Board of Regents who hold the trademarks for Arizona Public Media and AZPM. We respectfully acknowledge the University of Arizona is on the land and territories of Indigenous peoples.
The University of Arizona