In the Upper Mekong, the northern part of the river down to the Burma-Thai-Laos border, the river is relatively clear and fast flowing with the influx snowmelt guaranteeing a relatively uniform circumannual flow in the river. The water tends to be neutral, with a pH of 6.9 ranging to 8.2 and the nutrient level is low. In the Lower Mekong area the river is turbid, especially during the rainy season. Due to bank erosion the water gets a rusty-tan colour from the soil.
The river temperature in the Lower Mekong varies between 21.1 to 27.8° C (70–82° F) and the pH fluctuates between 6.2 to 6.5. The two main biotopic areas in the river follow the division between the Upper and Lower Mekong. The fish in the fast-flowing upper reaches are dominated by different loaches (Cobitidae), sucker catfish (Sisoridae), hillstream loach (Homalopteridae) and carp (Garrinae). The slower middle and lower parts of the river are dominated by species of carp (Cyprinidae), catfish (Siluridae, Clariidae, Schilbeidae, Bagridae, Sisoridae and Akysidae) and murrels (Chanidae and Ophicephalidae).
No other river is home to so many species of very large fish. The biggest include the giant river carp (Probarbus jullieni), which can grow up to 1.5 metres (4 ft 11 in) and weigh 70 kilograms (150 lb), the Mekong Freshwater Stingray (Himantura chaophraya), which can have a wingspan of up to 14 feet, the giant pangasius (Pangasius sanitwongsei), Siamese giant carp (Catlocarpio siamensis) and the endemic Mekong giant catfish (Pangasianodon gigas), all three of which can grow up to about 3 metres (9 ft 10 in) in length and weigh 300 kilograms (660 lb). All of these are in serious decline, both because of dams and flood control and overfishing.
One species of freshwater dolphin, the Irrawaddy dolphin (Orcaella brevirostris), was once common in the whole of the Lower Mekong but is now very rare. Among other wetland mammals that have been living in and around the river are the smooth-coated otter (Lutra perspicillata) and fishing cat (Felis viverrina). The endangered Siamese crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis) is reported to occur along the Mekong but is very rare.
Day 1: Ho Chi Minh - Ben Tre - Vinh Long (60 km cycling). Transfer a couple of hours out of Ho Chi Minh City to Bentre – the gateway of the Mekong delta. Today’s ride will lead you right into the heart of the rural Mekong. The cycling begins after the ferry journey across the Tien River at Mytho. The route www.vietnambiketours.com takes you through narrow roads and lanes, past banana plantations, fields of sugar cane, through the lush green landscape of the delta, crossing rivers and canals by numerous, ubiquitous, fascinating ferries. A section of biking cuts off road onto gravel and dirt lanes, and weaves around hamlets, across water channels, and through quiet dense vegetation. This makes for superb biking. Overnight on An Binh island. Includes: (L).
Day 2: Vinh Long - Cai Be - Cai Lay - My Tho - Sai Gon (50 km cycling). After breakfast we cruise on upper Mekong River to visit a nursery garden that hundreds of young trees are waiting to be moved to the gardens. Then keep boating to cross the 2 km river width to Caibe floating market, seeing the local life on the bustle market in early morning with Vietnanm Bike Tours's guide,introduction. Meanwhile have a look at family-run business producing rice paper - a key ingredient in Vietnamese cuisine, pop rice, popcorn making and coconut candy. We finish a boat trip and take the bikes. Cycling to Cai Lay, along this way covered with gardens of Longan (Dragon eyes). Then keep riding to Mytho. Have lunch. Cycle to visit the ornamental Khmer pagoda of Vinh Trang and continuing to Tam Vu through lush gardens of season fruits. Drive back to Ho Chi Minh City. End of trip and welcome back. Includes: (B), (L).
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