After another long bus ride this morning we arrived at the Mekong Delta, one of the most important locations in all of Vietnam as it produces a lot of the agricultural products that are exported from the country. In the delta we got to go to a few different islands. On the first one we got to sample some different types of fruit including some really tiny bananas and dragon fruit, which I had never had before. There were also chickens running around by the tables we were sitting at, and I found it interesting when our tour guide, Mr. Hai, explained to us the prevalence of chicken fighting in Vietnam and how much money you can make from it. We also got to try banana chips, a peanut brittle type of candy, and homemade tea with the honey. The tea came from the beehives that were kept on the island and there were bees flying all around us while we were trying the food and tea. We went over to the second island and visited a coconut farm where local people turned coconuts into all different types of foods and candy. I tried a coconut ginger candy, which I did not enjoy very much, and a delicious coconut ice pop which was extremely refreshing given the heat. We also got to see a 64 year old woman use what looked like a stake in the ground, rip the shell off of a coconut in about 10 seconds. Our tour guide told us that she can open about 200 coconuts an hour, which is incredible, but I also noticed that she didn’t look comfortable with all of the tourists in the area watching her work. It seemed like she’s probably still not comfortable with the influx of tourism into the region and prefers to do her work without 50 sets of eyes on her. After that we got to go down a small part of the Delta on little gondolas. I had to do most of the paddling, but I didn’t mind because of the great view of the jungle as went through the water. Following the gondola ride we took the ferry to the last island where we had lunch consisting, of rice paper fish wraps, spring rolls, and soup.
In general, today was the first day where I noticed a number of tourists in the same area as us. I think much of the increased tourist attraction to the delta has been a result of increased development due to the agricultural problems in the area. Because of the salinization of the water and the flooding due to climate change, it is becoming more difficult to farm. Therefore, it looked like there have definitely been efforts made to increase the development around the islands that we visited to turn it into a tourist attraction and find another way to make money. To me this was most evident in the attempt to try to sell us the banana chips and peanut brittle and the tip jars put out by the singers near the fruit.
Today was a great day in the delta, and I’m really happy I got to see another cultural aspect of the country outside of what goes on in the city.