Today was another early morning with a long bus ride to catch up on some Z’s. When we arrived at our destination, we immediately got off the bus and onto a tourism boat to take us out onto the Mekong River. The view from the river onto the shoreline was gorgeous, but the water was rather brown. Mr. Hai told us that it is because during the rainy season, more sediment is taken down river and brings new soil to the Mekong Delta, which is why it is such good farmland.
We took the boat to an island in the river where we basically just walked into the locals backyard to enjoy some fresh grown fruit. It was crazy to me that we just walked around this village like no one actually lived there. I just imagined what it would be like if buses of people rolled in to Palos Heights and started poking around my backyard. I then thought about how this must be a way for these people to supplement their income and I got a little sad that they had to sacrifice their privacy for some extra cash. I was amazed by everything while we were there though. We got some traditional vocal and instrumental performances, tea and honey which was delicious, and to see how cocoa beans are processed into chocolate. When we had the tea and honey, we actually got to look inside the beehives that the locals use to harvest the honey right there. After we finished at the first island, we ventured to another one, with some straws in coconuts to refresh us.
Once arriving at the second island, it felt very much like Gatlinburg, Tennessee, complete with zip-lines and tourist traps galore. We b-lined to a coconut processing place, and learned about how versatile the fruit is. Every part of the coconut is used for something, whether its milk, oil, or fiber, it all gets used. Once we learned about the coconuts utility, and downed some coconut ice cream, we walked deeper onto the island and got in some horse drawn buggies and rode them for about 10 minutes until we got to our next destination.
We walked through more people’s backyard shops and arrived at a small branch of the river, where we got in some boats and rode them down river. It honestly felt like a dream, like nothing was actually happening, because it was so surreal. Once we got a little further down river, we exited the small rowboats and got back on our motorboat to get lunch, which was strange, bony and scaly, but delicious. We got on the boat one last time before it was time to go back to the mainland to head back to Ho Chi Minh City.
Thinking more about the strangeness that was invading people’s lives for the day, I wondered how much these people need money or if they enjoy it a little bit too. Considering climate change is quickly ruining the crop yield with higher sea levels and water salination taking out fertile land every year, the tourism increase must be necessary for these people to maintain their standard of living, which is a little sad. But hopefully the government sees the quickly changing economy there and supports a small shift towards tourism and away from agriculture. Overall, the Mekong Delta seems like a very culturally rich and economically beneficial area of the country, and I really hope it is preserved through the changing global climate shift.