I would just like to preface this by saying that today was absolutely the best day of the trip so far. Today our group had a day trip to the Mekong Delta, and the day held so many different events and adventures I’m going to struggle a little to cover them here.
First we took a two hour bus ride to the actual region of the country, which is considered the Rice Bowl of Vietnam and is incredibly important agriculturally and economically. Once we got off the bus, we boarded a boat and sailed down the Mekong River to an island just off the coast. Here, amazing coconut products are made by hand by the Vietnamese people that live there, like a delicious coconut taffy candy. After buying copious amounts of coconut products (just wait, loved ones!), we took boarded Tuk Tuk’s for an amazing tour of the island. Not only did we pass businesses and houses on a main road, but we made our way back into the greenery a little bit into a beautiful village. The village was at first hidden from view and we drove on roads just big enough for the Tuk Tuk to fit on. It was amazing.
Next we boarded small canoe like boats and sailed to a different small island to explore more. Personally, I love being in boats, so being so close to the water and being paddled through by a native was so cool. It felt like an authentic experience of how they travel themselves in their daily lives. Here, we had our delicious lunch of rice paper rolls, egg noodles, tofu, sautéed veggies, and a cooked fish that we literally scraped off the bone to get the meat from. As always, the meal was perfect and a new experience for me, as I’ve personally never been served a whole fish to scrape meat off of! After lunch we hung around on some hammocks and relaxed a little before getting on the move once more. We walked behind a larger structure with our guide, and instantly saw snake cages – snake time! We all took turns holding two different extremely large snakes, but at least they were not venomous. Honestly, it was less weird than I thought it would be to wear a giant reptile like a scarf; I was kind of enjoying it. Future pet ?
The next stop required the bigger boat. On this island, we were shown a small sample of the bee population they keep in order to make “Royal Honey,” and also allowed to try some honey in a small shot-like glass with tea, lime, and bee pollen. It was one of the most delicious things I’ve ever tasted! I can’t imagine having access to something so tasty in my every day life – I’d probably drink it with all my meals! The next stop via the big boat was Coconut Island, where some Vietnamese people practice the religion of coconut-ism. They believe drinking from coconuts is sacred, and pray in a large open space surround by dragon totem-pole-like structures.
On the next island we took small, 4-person water taxis which one again was an incredibly surreal experience, to be this close to the water and watch the vegetation form almost a tunnel for us to travel through. At this stop, we enjoyed a snack of fruit and heard traditional Vietnamese singing. Boarding the big boat for the final time to travel back to the bus, we all received our own freshly cut coconut from which to drink! Nothing says “vacation” more, or is cooler than drinking from a coconut, truly!
Our guide briefly spoke to us about problems the Mekong is facing that were covered in our pre-departure reading, namely the damming of the river upstream and the increasing salinization due to this, as well as global warming affecting the dry/flooding seasons. As the Rice Bowl of Vietnam, too much salt in the water (which is traveling into the Delta from the sea because of damming upstream) would make conditions too harsh to grow rice, economically affecting the whole country but devastating the Mekong and its people. The Vietnamese government is part of a coalition of the governments of countries who share the Mekong (this river starts all the way up in Tibet!), so they are trying to speak out against the other countries upstream damming up the river. However, due to the small size of their country versus for example, China, they are having difficulty with their arguments.
All in all, the day was filled with new foods, new sites, the obvious aspect of the tourism industry, and the more authentic presence of the agriculture industry! The day was busy, and tiring, but if every day held this many new experiences, I would never leave!