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Thank you Paige for your question regarding Japanese Encephalitis. As I noted in the response to the question regarding malaria prophylaxis, unfortunately we are not medical professionals and we are unable to make recommendations to what you should or should not do regarding vaccinations. Following the advice of your family doctor or local travel clinic is the best advice we can give. Here I also include the link from the Center for Disease Control with information about Japanese Encephalitis and the vaccine.

I can say that in the past that very few Dragons students or instructors have elected to receive the vaccination before the trip. According to the CDC website linked above, the "risk for acquiring JE among most travelers to Asia is extremely low; however, the risk for an individual traveler is highly variable and depends on factors such as the season, locations and duration of travel, and activities of the person." While traveling, we encourage our students to take precautions to prevent mosquito bites, including wearing clothing that covers most of the body, applying mosquito repellent, and sleeping under mosquito nets when necessary. As always prevention is the best medicine.

If you do choose to receive the vaccination, doing so before the beginning of the trip is ideal. During the first few weeks of the trip we will be travelling in and out of urban centers with medical facilities that could provide the vaccination, but its difficult to guaruntee that we can arrange the vaccination once in country.

I hope this information is helpful. Please let us know if you have additional questions.

Michael

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Respons to Questions about Japanese Encephalitis

Michael Woodard,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Thank you Paige for your question regarding Japanese Encephalitis. As I noted in the response to the question regarding malaria prophylaxis, unfortunately we are not medical professionals and we are unable to make recommendations to what you should or should not do regarding vaccinations. Following the advice of your family doctor or local travel clinic […]

Posted On

01/20/10

Author

Michael Woodard

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Hello, everyone!

Where to start… so much to say about how wonderful this trip looks to be! Also to echo what Paige said, this experience wouldn’t be what it is, without such experienced and motivated instructors!

I was very apathetic towards my education during High School, and my grades suffered because of that. I wouldn’t have had numerically high enough grades to allow me to graduate with a High School Diploma. So in order to apply to college I had to get a GED. However, to put that in perspective, I didn’t actively want to go to college at that time, and felt I was applying more out of social pressure, then anything else.

Then to make a long story short, thanks to my mom I was introduced to the concept of a gap year, and through a gap year fair I was introduced to Where There be Dragons. I chose Dragons, and specifically the Mekong semester course for a bunch of reasons, but chiefly to get a better understanding of myself, and to get a more tangible feel for environmentalism (which is becoming my biggest passion :=) ). I hope to expand on both of those, and the other wonderful surprises that will surely unfold while on this amazing trip!

These last few weeks I often find my self grinning in anticipation!

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Introduction ;=)

Robin Bartels,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Hello, everyone! Where to start… so much to say about how wonderful this trip looks to be! Also to echo what Paige said, this experience wouldn’t be what it is, without such experienced and motivated instructors! I was very apathetic towards my education during High School, and my grades suffered because of that. I wouldn’t […]

Posted On

01/20/10

Author

Robin Bartels

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So an intro...hmm...well I'm kind of a chocolate addict, in my opinion cats are superbly better than dogs,andHarry Potter rocks my socks...but ok fine I'll write a real intro.

Hi everyone! I'm Robyn, and I'm taking a gap year as I'm sure most of you are also. This will be my second travel semester and I'm stoked. I've never been to Southeast Asia before, let alone Asia in general. The closest I've gotten to Asia is Austria I guess lol. To tell the truth, at first after knowing that I wanted to travel with WhereThereBeDragons, I was set to go on the Africa semester. It looked so awesome to me and I've always wanted to go to Africa. But as I kept weighing the other programs and the Mekong semester kept getting my attention. I love Asian culture, Buddhism interests me, and the overall travel itinerary looked awesome. SoI switched. I think I made the right decision, and as the date for departure looms closer I am getting more and more excited. And a little nervous. What if I forget something!! But I have full confidence that I'm in great hands with Allana and Michael.

So a little bit about me......well for starters I was in South America for my fall semester, specifically Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador. I traveled with Youth International. It was an amazing experience. I had never traveled to South America, and the culture shock was, well, shocking, but fantastic. Part of the reason I switched from the Africa semester to the Mekong semester was based on my experience from this trip. We traveled a lot in that trip, and I liked being on the move every couple of weeks. Anyways, the things I got to experience, and the people I got to experience them with, made it a semester to remember. I know I'll be able to say as much if not more than that after the Mekong semester.

I don't consider myself a world traveler yet, but I'm getting there. The reason I love traveling is because it opens up your eyes to the world you are a part of, reminds you of the wonders the earth still holds, and why its worth preserving for future generations. I also truly love the relationships you form along the way with people you otherwise would never think to get to know. And travelers, I've found, are just so cool. They'reexactly the open-minded, chill type of people that are so fun to get to know.

So a little more about me....I don't want to say too much because I want you all to get to really know me as we travel together, but I think it's always cool to know some basics about the people your going to spend basically 24 hours with for three months. I live in Southern California, I graduated from high school in June 2009, and I'm going to UC Berkeley next fall. I decided to take a gap year because school had completely worn me out and I wanted to actually experience what I had been reading in my textbooks for the past six years of my life. I'm a pretty chill person, and yes, I suppose you will think I've owned up to the steryotypical look of southern Cali. But that's not my fault. I can't help that were all so cool. ;). Joking. I think going into college that I want to study science, speicifically anatomy and phsyiology. I also love working with animals and I'm so happy some of the ISPs have just that. AndI want to leave therest for all the good talks I'm sure are to come. See you guys in February!

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Intro

Robyn Reeder,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

So an intro…hmm…well I’m kind of a chocolate addict, in my opinion cats are superbly better than dogs,andHarry Potter rocks my socks…but ok fine I’ll write a real intro. Hi everyone! I’m Robyn, and I’m taking a gap year as I’m sure most of you are also. This will be my second travel semester and […]

Posted On

01/20/10

Author

Robyn Reeder

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    [post_content] => Allana! It is really cool to hear that presence and awareness was the focus of your summer course!Thank you also for the helpful information!However, after visiting the travel medicine clinic today I have another concern.. Japanese Encephalitis. I received the first vaccination today, however it is apparently a bit too late if I plan to receive the second within the United States, my understanding had been that the virus was very uncommon and very expensive so I didn't prepare for the 2 part vaccination, my doctor made it clear that I should definitely be concerned... I was wondering if we could coordinate my receiving the second vaccination while in route the first two or so weeks of the trip?? Will we be at significant risk? Have others taken similar precautions with this virus? I am sorry to be trouble so early on in the trip but I am becoming pretty concerned about this virus
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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Japanese Encephalitis…

Paige Montgomery,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Allana! It is really cool to hear that presence and awareness was the focus of your summer course!Thank you also for the helpful information!However, after visiting the travel medicine clinic today I have another concern.. Japanese Encephalitis. I received the first vaccination today, however it is apparently a bit too late if I plan to […]

Posted On

01/20/10

Author

Paige Montgomery

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Thank you Paige! Thank you for being the first brave student to post a letter of introduction and for your words of wisdom and insight. I too hope we can bring a lot of presence and awareness into our course. In fact,the course Michael and I ran in Summer 2009 really focused on this theme.

In answer to your questions about what to pack:

You have received, or will be receiving very shortly, a package from the Dragons office in Boulder including, among other things, a Course Preparation Manual. Please, take the time to read through this manual from cover to cover, and then again. It has been tailored to our specific course and contains a lot of really important information that you will need prior to the trip. Remember, the more prepared each student is before the trip, the faster we can jump right into the experience as soon as we arrive. In the Course Preparation Manual you will finda comprehensive packing list including what size bag to bring.

Thanks for the great questions and intro Paige - keep the questions coming guys!

Best,

Allana

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Thank you brave soul…

Allana Leslie Hearn,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Thank you Paige! Thank you for being the first brave student to post a letter of introduction and for your words of wisdom and insight. I too hope we can bring a lot of presence and awareness into our course. In fact,the course Michael and I ran in Summer 2009 really focused on this theme. […]

Posted On

01/18/10

Author

Allana Leslie Hearn

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Hi there everyone!

I cannot stop smiling after going through each of the yak yak's in this forum! I already feel love, trust, and admiration for you both, Allana and Michael and loving reading what each of you had to share. I am also grateful for the advice & warm wishes from first semester's participants!

I am looking forward to EVERYTHING we will soon be sharing together after an amazing experience through Dragons in 2008.

After graduating from high school in June 2009, I have been living at home with my parents and brother and working at the Boys and Girls Club. I have learned much about myself, developed some amazing relationships at BGCP, and experienced more depth and understanding with each member of my family though there has been friction and emotional turbulence! I am really looking forward to stepping out of the family/work roles and living with much more present moment awareness

As a group, I hope each of us can help one another unravel what we have identified as being ourselves: ego, negative emotions, behaviors, the list goes on!! My wish main wish is that we each discover more of our inherent goodness

I am so excited for our trip, it looks awesome! Much to learn and discover! I am wondering what I should bring? How much to bring? I want to bring as little as possible! Let me know!

I may not have known it while working, babysitting, & stashing away birthday money, but i've been saving for this trip my whole life and I am SO, so grateful to be a part of this!

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Intro & packin ?s

Paige Montgomery,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Hi there everyone! I cannot stop smiling after going through each of the yak yak’s in this forum! I already feel love, trust, and admiration for you both, Allana and Michael and loving reading what each of you had to share. I am also grateful for the advice & warm wishes from first semester’s participants! […]

Posted On

01/18/10

Author

Paige Montgomery

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    [post_date] => 2010-01-17 00:00:00
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Thanks for your question Robyn! Malaria is a common concern for students and parents on many of our courses. Because we are not medical professionals, we cannot give you recommendations about what you should or should not do. However, we can give you an idea about what students have done in the past.

The majority of students who travel in countries with malaria risk will take prophylaxis for the duration of the trip, regardless if they are in malaria-prone regions the whole time. Some students choose malaria medication that is taken daily, some that is taken weekly. If you choose to take malaria prophylaxis, your family doctor, or a medical professional at a travel clinic, will be able to give you the best recommendation on which medication is right for you, and how often you should take it.

Our course will travel predominantly through rural areas of Cambodia, Laos, and Yunnan Province of China. According to the Center for Disease Control website (www.cdc.gov), there is at least some malaria risk in the regions we will visit, with the exception of the urban areas of Phnom Penh, Vientiane, and Kunming.

I hope this information is useful. If you have additional questions regarding malaria, I strongly suggest you speak with a doctor or you local travel clinic.

Michael

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Response to Robyn’s Malaria Question

Michael Woodard,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Thanks for your question Robyn! Malaria is a common concern for students and parents on many of our courses. Because we are not medical professionals, we cannot give you recommendations about what you should or should not do. However, we can give you an idea about what students have done in the past. The majority […]

Posted On

01/17/10

Author

Michael Woodard

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    [post_date] => 2010-01-15 00:00:00
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Hello Mekong students!We would like to introduce you to our Independent Study Projects as early as possible this semester! Your ISPs are an opportunity to delve deep into a topic of your choice, take ownership over your interests and have a lot of fun! We have come up with an extensive list of possibilities, but you’re free to think up your own topic. We want you to choose a topic that you are passionate about, that excites you, and that you will be able to successfully explore within our three months together. Please read through this text, choose a topic or two that interest you, and include your topic ideas in your introductory yakyak. Our intention is to give each of you the opportunity to learn about a topic that really interests you. Remember, this is not a homework assignment. This is EXPERIENTIAL learning - a way for you to tap into your curiosity and creativity, connect with locals and pursue an independent course of study within the group experience.Here are the keys to making your ISP as rewarding as possible:
1) Careful selection of something that excites you and will keep you inspired.
2) Taking initiative with the project's creation and direction, and
3) Dedication to your project through all its challenges until its conclusion. At this point we'd like you to focus on choosing a project that is exciting and will keep you inspired.It's ideal for students to either know, or at least narrow down, the options for the ISP before we arrive in Phnom Penh, so that the instructor team can start thinking about how to guide your course of study. We suggest observational and comparative topics, as our program will be moving quite quickly. However, if you want to pursue a site-specific or mentored project, we’ll work with you to make it happen. Comparative topics are particularly interesting on the Mekong trip because we move through Cambodia, Laos and China. Looking at how one simple thing - like a bowl of noodles - changes over the course of the river would be a fun and fascinating ISP.Site-specific topics offer the opportunity to present the ISP at your chosen site midway through the program. For example, if you choose to study hydropower, you could present your project on the Nakai plateau near the Nam Theun 2 dam. Please take a look at the following list and respond with a Yak Yak stating your probable ISP topic (and guiding questions if you are really on top of things). It’s OK if you aren’t completely sure what you want to study, but by the end of the 1st week on course we will need complete ISP proposals from each one of you.


Economy / Development
  • Telecommunications (mobile phones)
  • Prices of food – comparative study
  • What is rural development?
  • Visions of “the good life” – how development is portrayed in advertising.
  • Local benefits / drawbacks of major infrastructure projects
  • Trade and globalization
  • Gross Domestic Product and social well-being
  • Internet penetration
  • Fair trade
  • Role of the World Bank and/or Asia Development Bank
  • China’s influence in SE Asia
  • Comparison of local food markets
  • Public services (or lack thereof)
  • Trash collection
  • Public transportation
  • Utilities
  • Education (primary, secondary, development of, etc)
Politics
  • Modern SE Asian politics – a survey
  • Pay for public servants
  • Corruption
  • Legacy of colonialism – French, British, Japanese
  • Asian communism in theory and practice
  • Politics of tourism
  • China / Laos / Cambodia relations
  • Role and limitations of domestic and foreign NGOs
  • Censorship and taboo
  • Impressions of America and Americans
  • Political borders v. on the ground demographics
  • Ethnic minority issues
  • Mekong River Commission
  • Women in politics
  • Legacy of conflict
  • The CIA’s Secret War in Laos
  • Impact of U.S. Vietnam war policies on Laos and Cambodia
  • Religion
  • Animism
  • Spirit houses
  • Islam
  • Daily monastic life
  • Comparison of Tibetan / Lao / Khmer Buddhism
  • Temple architecture and daily structure
  • Superstitions and taboo
  • Government repression
  • Individual meditation
  • Religion v. materialism
  • Ghosts/spirits
  • Folklore
  • Environment
  • Rubber plantations
  • Deforestation
  • Slash and Burn
  • Impact of dams and hydropower
  • National Protected Areas
  • Ecotourism
  • The Asian Elephant
  • Use of pesticides
  • Potential impacts of climate change
  • Tigers, bears, large predators
  • Wild animals in the local markets
  • Domestic animals

Transportation

  • Use of horns/headlights
  • Methods of transportation (especially a photo-essay)
  • Methods of transporting animals
  • People to wheel ratio in forms of transport
  • Gasoline/filling stations and their role in the community
  • Tourist vs local transportation

Tourism

  • Mapping the tourist flow
  • Attitudes towards tourists
  • Economic impacts of tourism
  • Tourist space vs. Local space
  • Dangers of tourism
  • Effects of declaring a UNESCO site
Language
  • Reading/writing
  • Idioms
  • Songs – traditional / popular
  • Mapping linguistic zones
Trafficking
  • Sex trafficking
  • Labor trafficking
Food
  • Family cooking
  • Edible flora/fauna
  • Tea and Coffee
  • Food packaging
  • How rice is grown
  • Irrigation
  • Local food v. imports
Daily life
  • Household wall decorations
  • Advertisements—quality, quantity and subject matter (billboards, TV, wall paintings, etc.)
  • Hair salons
  • Hair styles
  • Men’s/women’s fashion
  • Whiteness and Beauty
  • Sports
  • Gender roles
  • Family member roles
Child Care
  • Sibling dynamics
  • Generation gaps
  • Western pop culture
Place-Specific
  • Interview Khmer Rouge / UXO survivors
  • Khmer Rouge tribunal
  • The Tibetan Issue
  • Mapping ethnic diversity
  • Temples of Luang Prabang
Medical
  • Health care systems (in general)
  • Perceptions of western vs. traditional healthcare
  • Economics of health care vs. the American system
  • Traditional healing, especially cupping/coining (more in-depth topics are too hard)
  • Women’s, maternal or child health
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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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ISP Topics

Allana Hearn,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Hello Mekong students!We would like to introduce you to our Independent Study Projects as early as possible this semester! Your ISPs are an opportunity to delve deep into a topic of your choice, take ownership over your interests and have a lot of fun! We have come up with an extensive list of possibilities, but […]

Posted On

01/15/10

Author

Allana Hearn

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Malaria PIlls

Robyn Reeder,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

Hey everybody! This is actually more of a question for the instructors and hopefully my question doesn’t already have an answer in the reading materials. I’m pretty sure it didn’t. I just wanted to know about how many malaria pills we should bring with us on the trip? I know on my last trip my […]

Posted On

01/14/10

Author

Robyn Reeder

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For ages and ages, long before Western explorers tried to geographically map the river from the South China Sea to its source in the Tibetan Plateau, the Mekong has provided the life blood of Southeast Asia. While our upriver route will look similar on paper to some of those early expeditions, our journey is to be of a different nature. We are, in a sense, cultural cartographers, bound not by the river’s banks or scheduled destinations, but challenged with exploringlife alongthe Mekong.

Below is a tentative itinerary for our course. We say tentative, as the actual flow of the course may change at times as we take advantage of opportunities that arise, manage possible risk issues, and most importantly, because we invite our students to offer their own input and ideas into course direction.

Weeks 1-2

We begin our journey in Phnom Penh, the bustling capital of Cambodia and where the Tonle Sap river meets the Mekong. Before acquainting ourselves with the city, we will travel to Kirirom National Park several hours away, an ideal spot to spend our first days and orient ourselves for the upcoming adventure. Moving back to Phnom Penh, we will have the opportunity to explore the streets and markets of the city, visit local Buddhist Wats, learn about the nation’s tragic history at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Fields, witness the capital’s rapid economic and cultural development, meet with several organizations, introduce ISPs, take on group roles and responsibilities, and begin our Khmer language lessons.

Traveling northwest to Siem Reap, we have our first glimpse of the magical temples of Angkor. It is here that we learn more about the rise and fall of the ancient Khmer empire, and how the mighty Mekong, running hundreds of kilometers to the east, greatly influenced the Khmer civilization living on the shores of the Great Lake.

Weeks 3-4

As the group settles into respective leadership roles, we return east toward the Mekong, stopping in Prek Pdao, the home village of our Cambodian instructor Mara Pho and the site of our first homestays. Here we are introduced to the beautifully slow pace of the Cambodian countryside and rural family life, continue our language lessons, and learn more about the essential cultural concept ofGreng Jut.

Moving north along the river’s course into Cambodia’s northeastern provinces, we meet with Cambodian Rural Development Team to delve deeper into our survey of development and conservation issues, continue with ISPs, experience our second homestays, and open the service-learning component of our course.

From here we bid farewell to Cambodia and travel upstream to southern Laos, home of Champasak, Wat Phu, and the tranquil island of Don Deng where we will have additional opportunities for home-stays, a service project, and time to appreciate the power and beauty of the river.

Weeks 5-6

Continuing northward through rural Laos, we have our first trekking experience in Thakek, enjoying the area’s emerald green pools and fantastic caves, and then move to the National Protected Area of Pak Kading for a service opportunity. In the Lao capital of Vientiane, we meet with the Mekong River Commission and discuss how upstream projects affect the river downstream and those who depend on its resources. Additionally we will study Lao language, deepen our understanding of Theravada Buddhism, and reflect on our journey so far while exploring the urban capital.

Weeks 7-9

Luang Prabang: former royal capital of Laos, UNESCO World Heritage Site, and our home for several weeks. Here we will deepen our understanding of Lao culture and family life through extended home-stays in a small village directly across the river from Luang Prabang, devote time to ISPs, meet with organizations to learn about local development initiatives, continue our study of Lao language and Buddhism, and enjoy the rejuvenating aquatic festivities of Lao New Year. By now the student group has taken on additional roles and responsibilities, and will have opportunities for student-directed day excursions.

Weeks 10-13

Before crossing the border into China, we will travel through the lush, dramatic mountains of northern Laos, spending time in Luang Nam Tha to learn about sustainable eco-tourism in the area and continue our discussion of the effects of tourism development. As we prepare for the final phase of our course in Yunnan Province, the group is performing at a high level, responsible for managing daily logistics, activities, briefings, and feedback sessions.

Entering multi-ethnic Yunnan Province, the course takes on a new intensity as we are challenged with a new tongue and a culture sharply contrasting with that of Laos and Cambodia. While visiting the fast-growing Kunming, the different foci of our course will come together aswe explore the transnational topics of history and politics. We will take a hard look at issues related to development on the local scale, such as modernization, forced relocation, and disregard for minority cultures, and finally discuss threats to the ecological diversity, cultural integrity and economic security of the greater Southeast Asian region. We will wrap up our journey together with a trek in the high Tibetan mountains of Meili, hiking along a Buddhist pilgrimage route as we conclude our own pilgrimage.

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Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

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Mekong Tentative Itinerary

Michael Woodard,Mekong Semester, Spring 2010

Description

For ages and ages, long before Western explorers tried to geographically map the river from the South China Sea to its source in the Tibetan Plateau, the Mekong has provided the life blood of Southeast Asia. While our upriver route will look similar on paper to some of those early expeditions, our journey is to […]

Posted On

01/12/10

Author

Michael Woodard

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