The first thing I did after leaving the bus this morning was coat myself in sunscreen and bug spray. We were headed to the Mekong Delta, outside the limits of Ho Chi Minh City and a trip I’ve been looking forward to since the beginning.
It lived up to expectations! In no particular order, today I: drank from a coconut, held a snake, drank some incredible tea, rode in a carriage, and was not bitten by mosquitos! Instead of bug bites, I left that trip with some incredible memories.
We visited a very touristy area. On each stop, we tried a particular agricultural product of this area and learned about how each was made. As our guide explained, each of these stops worked together to bring in tourists and therefore each profited a bit more. First, we ate some fruit grown in the region (pineapple, jackfruit, and pineapple). Second, we visited an area with bee hives and tried this incredible tea sweetened with acidic fruit juice, honey, and pollen. After that, we saw how chocolate was made, from the harvesting of the beans to the final product. Finally, we stopped at an area that specialized in coconut products. Candies, statues, bags, ice cream – you name it. If it could be made from a coconut, it was probably there. Other aspects of the tourism industry included the transportation we used to get from each place and the restaurant we ate at.
Besides tourism, it was interesting to catch glimpses of other industries in the Mekong Delta. Tying into the agricultural products we had tried, our guide mentioned floating fish farms throughout the river. Catfish, which here is a general term for fish without scales, are an important export of Vietnam — especially in what our guide liked to call the “catfish war against America” in which American catfish farmers can’t compete with the quality and price of imported Vietnamese catfish.
All of these industries greatly rely on the Mekong. Thousands, if not millions, of people in Vietnam depend on the Mekong for their livelihoods. So, when the effects of climate change start becoming more apparent, what will happen? If sea waters rise and temperatures become more volatile, the agricultural industry will suffer. You can’t grow crops without land and a steady growing season, at least not without any major preparation. I want to do more research on the subject to know what the Vietnamese government has in place to help its citizens manage the effects of climate change.
Today was another incredible day. It’s upsetting to think that in a couple days, this trip will be over. Thank you so much, Vietnam!