Day 6: A Day of Many Boats

Today we visited the Mekong Delta. We all got up, had breakfast, and then started driving around 7:30 am. As we drove, we got to see even more of the Vietnamese countryside. Once we led the urban area, most of what we saw were rice fields and small villages. Once in a while, there were larger new houses surrounded by imposing metal gates, often with intricate gold decorations. As we continued to drive, the villages became less modern and the vegetation along the shoulder of the road became larger and more wild. Finally, we arrived at the harbor where a boat was waiting to take us to the islands in the Mekong River. Today, we visited 3 islands, which each specialize in one industry. The first island that we visited is the largest, and has a factory to make candies from the coconuts that grow prevalently in the region. We got to see the process of making the candies, and then they offered us freshly made samples. After that, we got on very small motorbike truck hybrids, with 5 to a bike and were driven through the jungle. We had been wearing our conical reed hats, but the driver of my truck gave the five of us helmets to put on. It seemed strange at first, but after driving through the jungle and dodging the branches overhanging the road, we understood the precaution. Eventually we stopped, got out, looked at some pigs, and then walked a short distance to what appeared to be some sort of tourist resort, nestled in the middle of the jungle. We had lunch, which was an amazing meal where you wrapped fish, vegetables, rice noodles, fried rolls, and other food in rice paper. Then, we got in 10 person boats and returned to our bigger boat.
We went to the next island, which is known for being the holy place of the Coconut religion. This was a religion founded in the 1900s, focused on coconut worship. Finally, we left that island and took the boat to the third island, which has a famous honey industry. We sat down and a Vietnamese worker poured honey into the bottom of a little glass cup, and then squeezed a small citrus into the cup and sprinkled some bee pollen in and poured in hot water. It was very good, intensely sweet and sour. Then, they took us around the building and pulled a python out of a cage. We all got to take pictures with the python, which was an interesting experience, but not one that I will be repeating any time soon. Our tour guide led us to tables where we had a selection of tropical fruit and got to listen to local people perform traditional Vietnamese singing.
On the drive home, we stopped on the side of the road and the tour guide led us on a mini excursion into a roadside rice field. He explained that recently, rice fields have not been flooded enough because of climate change and damming up river, and so the harvests are not as plentiful as they should be.
Today was an incredible day, filled to the brim with amazing experiences.

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