Today we visited the Mekong River, something we’ve talked a lot about already. A two hour bus ride led us to the river that, if we went farther north, would be full of dams. These dams have hurt the wildlife in the river and the people living around it. Furthermore, rising sea levels has brought salt water beyond the mangroves that usually soak up the salt, making the river saltier and hurting the wildlife. This also hurts the economy, as many of the people there farm fish.
Today we saw the tourism side of the Mekong economy. Tourism is also affected by the Mekong’s health. Sure, the island cultures are cool, but what drives tourists there is the Mother River herself. Without her in good health, people will find other things to do in Vietnam.
The whole day was a tour of three islands in the river. The first we saw showed us the coconut industry. The people there make products out of coconut, such as candy, cooking oil, lipstick, and soap. Working there I saw people as young as maybe 8 years old and as old as maybe 70.
Next, we went to the island that is home to the very famous Coconut Religion. The island had temples and a brief history outline of the religion that once had 3,000 followers. This seems silly at first, but today I saw how important the coconut is to people, so it actually makes sense. One could argue that that one fruit has done a lot more for people for a longer time than other religions.
Lastly, the final island had us drink honey tea, hold a python, and take a boat ride through the island. The honey in the tea is homemade honey from bees they keep. The honey can be used in drinks and snacks but also for medicinal purposes. This was very interesting to see, as it goes with the coconut as an item of the islands that can be used for an array of purposes.
The Mekong Delta was very unique. It provides goods and economic wellbeing for an entire nation and more. It is home to distinctive features such as homemade honey, the versatile coconut, and the Coconut Religion. The Vietnamese government is currently not doing anything about the Mekong’s health (that I’ve been told of at least). This is the case partially because all of the dams are located in different countries, and global warming isn’t something Vietnam has much control over. If these issues continue, the unique cultures of the Mekong may be in danger.