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Who is Steve Van Beek?

Where did this wanderlust come from? Perhaps it came about because I had little opportunity as a child to explore beyond the horizon because my logger father's vacations fell during the winter when the forests filled with snow. So when I grew old enough to hit the open road by myself, I never turned back.

Born in Portland Oregon, and educated at the University of Oregon, I travelled to Nepal in 1966 to serve as a Peace Corps volunteer in a small village in its southern, Terai, region. After a third year in Kathmandu as the Peace Corps Resource Information Officer, I got itchy feet and hitchhiked west. After four fascinating months between New Delhi and Istanbul, I reversed direction and ended up in Bangkok, ostensibly to say "hello" to a Thai school friend in Bangkok. I intended to stay for two weeks but was caught in its grip and, in brief, neglected to go home. Aside from stays in New York and San Francisco, Thailand has been my base for exploring Asia and the world. Its hold on me is undiminished.

While I am intrigued by Asian cultures, it is rivers that fascinate me. While I splashed in creeks as a boy, my interest in water was fuelled by 11 years of living in a wooden house set on stilts in Bangkok's Chao Phya River. Curious about where all the water came from, I headed to the sources and spent five months paddling a small boat down all four Chao Phya tributaries, journeys that taught me more about Thailand than anything I'd previously read or encountered. The Chao Phya, River in Transition, published by Oxford University Press, and others grew out of those trips an pushed me farther afield. My subsequent solo expeditions resulted in my election as a Fellow of the Explorers Club in New York and participation as a kayaker in four pioneering expeditions on the upper Mekong River in China, all amazing experiences.

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 Railway Park, Thailand, 2006 Photo by Piyawee Ruenjinda 
 
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