The last normal blog post of the trip! It’s crazy to think that we have been here for almost two weeks. I feel like we just arrived. For our final day before our pre-departure celebrations, we traveled two hours to the Mekong Delta – the farm production capital of Vietnam. The delta is a part of one of the longest rivers in the world, and its waters provide nourishment for countless rice, coconut, and fruit farms.
In recent years, environmental threats have jeopardized the value and ability of the river to maintain farms. Increased salinity and dam construction prevents nutritional sediments from reaching the plants that need them. However, from our visit alone, signs of this environmental downturn were not too prevalent. Thriving, tropical plants sprouted everywhere, and it was hard to find a bush or tree that didn’t have any fruit ready for picking.
Our first stop of the day allowed us to taste a few of the locally grown fruits and listen to the traditional music of the families on the river. We got to eat miniature bananas (literally smaller than my hand), pineapple, mango, watermelon and jackfruit – which I had never tried before. I really couldn’t compare the taste to anything in my past, but it had a very faint, fruity flavor and I enjoyed it. The music was mesmerizing to listen to and watch. The musicians effortlessly played instruments that I had never seen before, and the voices of the singers emitted tones that were unlike anything I have heard in America.
Following this stop, we visited a local cocoa farm and sampled some of their extra-dark, sugarless chocolate. It was a very detailed process, but the end product is certainly worth it. At the same location, we got to hold a seven foot python and a honeycomb teeming with bees. If I’m being honest, these were actually some of the least scary parts of our trip. I hadn’t held a snake for about a decade, but it was so cool to feel the scales and muscles pulsing across my neck and back, and I didn’t die so that’s a plus! For reasons I don’t fully understand, we then got in horse drawn carriages for approximately two minutes to get to our next location. We all felt like we were on the edge of falling out of the rickety buggy, but everybody made it safely.
My favorite part of the day was our brief sailing trip down a narrow canal in a banana boat. Randy and I had to contribute to the rowing efforts, so I got my workout for the day in addition to the once-in-a-lifetime experience. The canal we sailed down featured a canopy of palm leaves over our heads, and numerous locals motoring around with goods. There was nothing incredibly special about any one part of the ride, but the overwhelming quiet and serenity really made it a great experience.
Lastly, for lunch, we dined on another mixture of seafood, rice, and others meats. Our table was presented with a whole, cooked fish, but thankfully the fish was picked off the bone for us and made into spring rolls. Thankfully, they didn’t taste fishy! While I am also still quite opposed to eating – or honestly even looking at – shrimp, I did eat a piece of an organ of a prawn. I’m not exaggerating when I say it tasted like chicken. All in all, the meal – like nearly every other on this trip – fully satisfied me, and I’m starting to realize that I may actually miss some of the unique food offered here.
In the greater development picture, everything we witnessed on the trip today indicated a serious amount of economic growth in Vietnam. Individuals with all different specializations and backgrounds have united over recent years to provide a fully immersive tourist experience, and they attract numerous visitors from across the globe. The farmers, sailors, musicians, and tour guides are just some of the many who play a key role in this small but powerful globalization project. If the projected downturn in river water quality plays out, farmers will need to adapt to keep their currently flourishing system afloat. I believe that this industry has sustained far tougher challenges than this, and we should expect the Mekong Delta to continue to grow into an even larger economic asset for a quickly improving country.
I’m so sad to close out my final blog post about my day. I’ve actually enjoyed relaying all of my experiences to anyone who is willing to listen. Last day of the trip tomorrow, and I’ll be on my way back to the states!