Put the Lime in the Coconut

Our morning started around 7am. We ate a quick breakfast and then jumped on the bus for a 2-hour ride to the Mekong River. On arrival, we were already surrounded by tourist shops with gifts and food to buy. We started the day on a boat, large enough to fit our entire group, and motored to the first island. On the island, there was a small group of people making coconut products like coconut candies, beauty products, and snacks. I bought a few packs of the coconut candies as gifts for some friends. From there, we took a long ride on a “tut tut” through several villages. The ride gave us a very authentic taste of Vietnamese culture as we saw houses, farms, graveyards, shops, animals, and the locals wandering. Once off the tut tut, we had a short walk to an area that seemed almost like a resort, but without the hotel service. The outdoor space had hammocks, a restaurant, ponds with fish and crocodiles, and other pets like anacondas and birds. We ate lunch at the restaurant and ate a local dish. The main dish was an entire giant fish that was deep fried, that we put the meat in rice wraps and garnished with vegetables. After lunch, we went to Coconut Island that was once inhabited by people who followed the Coconut religion. This was by far the most tourist driven area. There were gift stands and restaurants everywhere and so much to buy. Other foods we tried the remainder of the day included, a honey and lime tea drink, and some native fruits like dragon fruit and guava. The industries that were prevalent along the Mekong was dominated by tourism, but also had influences of agriculture. The economies are carried by a lot of the coconut, honey and rice productions. The river life seems to be thriving, however, there is a constant threat from global warming. Global warming is causing the sea levels to rise, and as a result, the levels of salinity in the water also increases. Also, the damming of the river in countries like Cambodia and Laos pose a threat downstream. The government does not have a lot of power over these issues since the Mekong River Committee must make executive decisions in respect to the well-being of the people who use the river’s sources. Vietnam is the last country down the river line, so they are stuck with the short end of the stick. Overall, the Mekong River visit has been my favorite part of the trip so far. The river hosts lively, hard-working people and valued resources throughout.

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