A sense of adventure suddenly rushed through my body as I hopped aboard the rickety plank, setting sail along the Mekong Delta to a whole different world I never knew existed. In that moment, nothing but excitement filled my appetite as I peered off in to the distance and awaited for what was to come.
For starters let’s address an important fact that the salinization of the river water and construction of dams have negatively impacted the food production in the Mekong Delta. From our research prior to coming to Vietnam, we learned that these factors have impacted the livelihood of many Vietnamese who live along the Mekong Delta because fish is one of the largest sources of food for these people. What poses a concern for them is that these factors have been gradually decreasing the production of fish in recent years. If actions aren’t taken to prevent the rapid decline in fish, well then many lives will be affected. In addition, due to the salinization of the water the soil in this region is now tainted to the point that farming has become much more difficult. But an interesting observation we noted was that during our visit to the Mekong Delta, there was no clear evidence of these factors playing a huge role in the lives of the Vietnamese living there. In fact, everyone appeared to be going about their daily lives in a regular fashion and were eager to welcome us to this beautiful place they call home.
Now you may be asking, is the Vietnamese government imposing any policies to alleviate any damage the Mekong Delta is currently experiencing? The truth is: they are not. If anything, they approve of the construction of the dams because they most likely have a secret deal with the dam companies to reap in the share of the profits. It’s an unfortunate matter that Vietnam has this problem, but one that must be acknowledged if it has any hope of being resolved.
Back to our trip.
To get to the Mekong Delta first, we had to fetch a ride through an intricate maze of roads through the city situated in the Mekong Delta. It was a wild experience seeing all the luscious greenery around you as you sped through what felt like a jungle. Rudimentary structures that the people of the Mekong Delta considered as houses were tuck deep in the thicket of palm trees and grass, making them practically hidden in plain sight. What I found interesting was that the majority of houses here had graves placed directly in front of their house or even inside it. When asked why that was the case, the tour guide informed us that the Vietnamese want to keep their deceased loved ones as close as possible as a means for them to watch over everyone. As for the shops around the area, many of them sold small goods such as toys, shirts, and souvenirs that a typical tourist attraction would have. For instance, practically every shop we walked by sold wooden spoons and chopsticks as well as some small knick knacks.
From this I gathered that the main industries present in the Mekong Delta, besides tourism, are: fishing, forestry, and farming. And worse enough, all of them are in some way affected by the climate change or damming of the Mekong Delta. We’ve already covered fishing and farming and how their respective industries are in trouble due to the external factors contributing to their demise. But for forestry, it also follows the same fate as the others due to climate change. Since trees are constantly being cut down as a source of wood for the production of a variety of goods, even the smallest environmental change may drastically inhibit future growth of trees, which will harm all the Vietnamese in the Mekong Delta. Action must be taken place to prevent such a disaster from occurring.
Anyways once we arrived at the specified dock in the Mekong Delta, we then proceeded to board a large boat that could fit our entire group. From there, we sailed to three different islands.
The first island was known for its production of goods comprising coconut, specifically coconut candy. We were able to watch the process that goes in to manufacturing this popular treat of the Mekong Delta as we saw machines churn the coconut, milk, and sugar and people wrap and package the finished product. They provided us with samples of the coconut candy, which were so tasty! If any of us wanted more, we could purchase boxes of candy from the store. Being that I have a sweet tooth, I couldn’t help myself from buying 5 boxes of the candy and whatever other treats that looked appealing. Those around me looked at how much I bought with wide eyes, but I insisted it was for my family. No one really needs to know how much I am a pig when it comes to food.
One of the cultural sites we visited on the island was the Coconut Shrine that the original Coconut Monk worshipped at. The coconut religion is a bit odd, but basically it is centralized around the idea that coconut is the essence of life and that consuming it will heal your body and extend your life. The site was very pretty with 9 dragon totems erected in front of the shrine as a gesture of protection and power.
We also ate lunch on the first island, which served authentic Vietnamese food: egg rolls, spring rolls, grilled fish, sour soup, and seasoned pork. The quality of the food was overwhelmingly good that I had to force myself to stop eating if I didn’t want to throw up. After that, we walked around the area a bit and checked out the mini zoo they had displayed. I just found it so entertaining that right outside the restaurant we ate at was nothing other than a random zoo. At least the animals were cool, such as the ones looking like porcupines but with much longer quills.
The second island was known for its honey production. They let us taste freshly made honey by giving us a shot of honey tea. I am usually not a fan of hot tea, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. It was very sweet but also sat well in my body too.
Next, we pulled a Britney Spears. They had snakes there that we could put around our necks and take pictures with. Initially I was reluctant to put a huge hissing creature on me, but after seeing all the others do so, I knew I had to join in on the fun.
Lastly, the third island was known for its tropical fruit and preservation of culture. We all gathered in seating areas underneath the shade and indulged in the fruit offered by the locals. When it comes to fruit, I am not daring at all and will tend to stick to the ones I am familiar with. Yet this time, I pushed myself to try dragon fruit and was satisfied with how it tasted. Also during this time, the locals gathered around and performed traditional Vietnamese songs for us to enjoy and learn more about Vietnam’s culture. The Vietnamese here were extremely friendly and inspiring. Knowing that these people live far away from development and make a living through farming while keeping a bright smile on their faces is just a slap in the face that you can find happiness out of anything. It was quite an enjoyable experience and one I will not forget.
Overall during our day trip at the Mekong Delta, although we spent hours there, we actually only explored the southern part of it. In the near future, I definitely plan on returning to Vietnam and discovering what else the Mekong Delta has in store as I head up North of the Dragon.
Until next time friends