Both of Aqua Expeditions cruise destinations, the Mekong River and the Amazon River, have vibrant and complex stories to tell, from the conquest of the Incas in the Amazon in Peru to the drama of the Vietnam War in Cambodia and Vietnam. Exploring such rich and complex histories, we have compiled a recommended reading list for our guests to learn a bit more about these two fascinating regions before taking a river cruise with us.
AMAZON RIVER CRUISES: RECOMMENDED READING
One River – By Wade Davis
An epic tale of adventure and a compelling work of natural history, One River is the story of two generations of scientific explorers in South America. In 1941, Professor Richard Evan Schultes took a leave from Harvard and disappeared into the Amazon, where he spent the next twelve years mapping uncharted rivers and living among dozens of Indian tribes. In the 1970s, he sent two prize students, Tim Plowman and Wade Davis, to follow in his footsteps and unveil the botanical secrets of cocoa, the notorious source of cocaine, and a sacred plant known to the Inca as the Divine Leaf of Immortality.
The River of Doubt: Theodore Roosevelt’s Darkest Journey – By Candice Millard
An incredible adventure narrative and a penetrating biographical portrait, The River of Doubt is the true story of Theodore Roosevelt’s harrowing exploration of one of the most dangerous rivers on earth. The River of Doubt is a black, uncharted tributary of the Amazon River that snakes through one of the most treacherous jungles in the world. Indians armed with poison-tipped arrows haunt its shadows; piranhas glide through its waters; boulder-strewn rapids turn the river into a boiling cauldron. After his humiliating election defeat in 1912, Roosevelt set his sights on the most punishing physical challenge he could find, the first descent of an unmapped, rapids-choked tributary of the Amazon. Together with his son Kermit and Brazil’s most famous explorer, Cândido Mariano da Silva Rondon, Roosevelt accomplished an incredible feat.
Tree of Rivers: Story of the Amazon – By John Hemming
This enthralling book brilliantly describes the passionate local and regional struggles that have taken place in Peru and Brazil order to utilize, protect and understand the wonder that is the Amazon. Hemmings riveting account recalls the adventures and misadventures down the centuries of the explorers, missionaries, indigenous Indians, naturalists, rubber barons, scientists, anthropologists, archaeologists, political extremists, prospectors and many more, who have been in thrall to the Amazon, the largest river in the world, with the greatest expanse of tropical rain forest and most luxuriant biological diversity on earth.
Conquest of the Incas – By John Hemming
On 25 September 1513, a force of weary Spanish explorers cut through the forests of Panama and were confronted with an ocean: the Mar del Sur, or the Pacific Ocean. Six years later, the Spaniards established the town of Panama as a base from which to explore and exploit this unknown sea. It was the beginnings of a vast expansion into the Inca Empire. From the forays of this first small band of Spanish adventurers to the execution of the last surviving Inca, forty years later, The Conquest of the Incas is a story of bloodshed, infamy, rebellion and extermination, told as convincingly as if it happened yesterday.
The Lost City of Z – by David Grann
Colonel Percy Harrison Fawcett, the inspiration behind Conan Doyle’s novel The Lost World, was among the last of a legendary breed of British explorers. For years he explored the Amazon and came to believe that its jungle concealed a large, complex civilization, similar to the legend of El Dorado. Obsessed with its discovery, he christened it the City of Z. In 1925, Fawcett headed into the wilderness with his son Jack, vowing to make history. They vanished without a trace. For the next eighty years, hordes of explorers plunged into the jungle, trying to find evidence of Fawcett’s party or the City of Z. Some died from disease and starvation; others simply disappeared. In this spellbinding true tale of lethal obsession, David Grann retraces the footsteps of Fawcett and his followers as he unravels one of the greatest mysteries of exploration.
MEKONG RIVER CRUISES: RECOMMENDED READING
The Lover – By Marguerite Duras
An autobiographical novel by Marguerite Duras published in 1984, The Lover is an international best-seller. Set in the pre-war Indochina of Marguerite Duras’s childhood, this is the haunting tale of a tumultuous affair between an adolescent French girl and her Chinese lover. In spare yet luminous prose, Duras evokes life on the margins of Saigon, Vietnam in the waning days of France’s colonial empire, and its representation in the passionate relationship between two unforgettable outcasts.
The Quiet American – By Graham Greene
Into the intrigue and violence of Indo-China comes Pyle, a young idealistic American sent to promote democracy through a mysterious ‘Third Force’. As his naive optimism starts to cause bloodshed, his friend Fowler, a cynical foreign correspondent, finds it hard to stand aside and watch. But even as he intervenes he wonders why: for the sake of politics, or for love?
River of Time – By Jon Swain
Between 1970 and 1975 Jon Swain, the English journalist portrayed in David Puttnam’s film, “The Killing Fields”, lived in the region surrounding the Mekong River. This is his account of those years, and the way in which the tumultuous events of that era affected his perceptions of life and death as Europe never could. He also describes the beauty of the Mekong landscape – the villages along its banks, being surrounded by mangoes, bananas and coconuts, and the presence exquisite women, the odours of opium, juxtaposed against the region’s other face – violence and corruption.
When The War Was Over: Cambodia And The Khmer Rouge Revolution – By Elizabeth Becker
When the War Was Over is award-winning journalist Elizabeth Becker’s masterful account of the Cambodian nightmare. Encompassing the era of French colonialism and the revival of Cambodian nationalism; 1950s Paris, where Khmer Rouge leader Pol Pot received his political education; the killing fields of Cambodia; government chambers in Washington, Paris, Moscow, Beijing, Hanoi, and Phnom Penh; and the death of Pol Pot in 1998; this is a book of epic vision and staggering power. Merging original historical research with the many voices of those who lived through the times and exclusive interviews with every Cambodian leader of the past quarter century, When the War Was Over illuminates the darkness of Cambodia with the intensity of a bolt of lightning.
Communion: A Culinary Journey Through Vietnam – By Kim Fay
Living in Vietnam for four years in the 1990s, Seattle native Kim Fay fell in love with the romantic landscapes, the rich culture, and the uninhibited warmth of the people. A decade later, she grew hungry for more. Inspired by the dream of learning to make a Vietnamese meal for her friends and family in America, Kim returned to Vietnam and embarked on an unforgettable five-week culinary journey from Hanoi to Saigon.