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Mekong River with Sue Perkins

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. In this fourth and final episode, Sue reaches her final destination - China, home to the source of this mighty river. Here change is sweeping through faster than any other Mekong nation, as China's economic miracle transforms even the remotest regions. Arriving in Yunnan's tropical south-western region of Xishuangbanna, Sue discovers how this once remote and sleepy region is now home to a booming tourist industry, with the indigenous Dai tribe at its heart. To the Dai, water is holy, the physical and spiritual source of life. Thousands of Han Chinese - who make up 92% of China's population - flock to the Dai Minority Park, a 'Disneyfied' version of an ancient Dai village, and take part in their 'traditional' water splashing ceremony. After decades of communism, the park represents China's renewed interest in the colourful melting pot of peoples that actually make up the modern China, providing a must-see holiday destination for its burgeoning middle class. Leaving the Dai Park Sue climbs higher into the foothills of Xishuangbanna to discover how the Aini tribe are adapting to a changing China. The Aini have farmed Pu'er tea for two thousand years; suddenly they can become rich from its harvest, as China's newly wealthy professionals buy up this now fashionable delicacy.

 

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