It may sound cheesy, but today is one of those days that I will remember for forever. Today we immersed ourselves in the local culture at the Mekong Delta. For those that are unfamiliar with the area, the Mekong Delta is a series of waterways in the southernmost region of Vietnam that empties the Mekong River into the South China Sea. The region is and has always been Vietnam’s most productive in terms of both agriculture and fishing. To put it into perspective, the region alone accounts for more than half of Vietnam’s total output of rice. Thus, agriculture and aquaculture have been this region’s source of income. Unfortunately, against the protests of the Cambodian and Vietnamese governments, dams are being built upstream from the Mekong Delta is countries such as Laos and China. Dams pose a threat to both fish migration and food security for the Mekong Delta region. Additionally, the dams that are upstream trap sediment and prevent vital nutrients from reaching the Mekong Delta thus causing major problems in the region’s agriculture. Seeing that agriculture and aquaculture go hand-in-hand with the prosperity of the Mekong Delta, the delta is crucial to Vietnam’s economic future, and with the building of even more dams, the future is looking murky just like the water we saw today (caused by build up of silt from dams).
Despite the concern about the delta’s future, the local people have forged on and found ways to develop a sustainable economy. This recently developed sector of the economy revolves around the profitable business of tourism. The delta is ingeniously attracting travelers from across the world to experience the local culture, and consequently brining in money from all over the world to spur the local economy. This is exactly what we took part in today. We were able to immerse ourselves in the local culture and also spend a bit of money while we were there (all parties leave happy!).
Our cultural immersion started with a boat ride to an island where the locals fed us fresh fruit and sampled their traditional music. Then, our tour guide led us on a walking tour of the island where we stopped to learn how chocolate was made from fruit to bar. We also casually stopped to hold an anaconda. Then we made a quick stop to drink delicious tea with 100% real, local honey. We got back on the boat and headed to yet another island where we boarded small boats that were paddled through a small waterway. After all of the exploration, our stomachs were definitely starting to grumble. Luckily it was just in time for the next stop at a local restaurant on an island where we were served delicious traditional Vietnamese food.
If you ever find yourself in Vietnam, you must stop at the Mekong Delta to support the local economy and create memories of a lifetime!