The view off the side of the old wooden bridge was unmatched. The river below meandered between jungly growth. The golden spire of the hillside temple shone in the fading sunlight. As the light dimmed, three monks dressed in shades of bright orange crossed the foot bridge to the left. We had found the perfectly iconic scene in modern day Laos.
We were paddling down the Mekong in Eastern Cambodia, over 250 kilometers from the nearest major city. The water on which we rode had originated in China’s Tibetan Plateau, and would eventually empty into the ocean below Vietnam after meandering through six countries. With the exception of a few fisherman and small stilted house villages, there wasn’t much out here. The air was quiet save for the sounds of dolphins surfacing for breath around the kayaks. This was the Southeast Asia we had been expecting.