Making Friends in the Mekong

The coolest day of the trip finally came. The bus rolled out in the morning with the set destination of a river in the Mekong Delta, one of the two major deltas in Vietnam. These waterways are crucial for economic growth because of the mass finishing and farming done here as well as the ease of transporting shipments in and out of the country. The stats on just the Mekong delta alone are astonishing with providing 90% of the rice in Vietnam and over half of rice exports. But with the many uses of this waterway, companies upstream are inserting dams to create power which negatively affects the waterflow downstream and therefore, the fishing and farming industries. Much of the farmers are not wealthy and rely on a steady crop yield for payments to support their families. With the changing environment in the delta, the people there seem to be finding other ways for income through tourism. Our day consisted of several key Mekong delta activities from boat rides through the narrow rivers to listening to traditional music sung by some locals. The music was interesting to listen to because several of the Vietnamese students could not understand the words because the locals’ accents were different than what they are used to hearing. In a heavily tonal language, I can imagine hearing an unfamiliar accent can be difficult, especially in song. My favorite part of the day was the boat ride through the narrow rivers. We were able to experience the way some locals get around these rivers in their long narrow boats powered by one or two people paddling. Paddling through the murky waters with trees on both sides really made you feel like you were in the jungle, especially with wearing the conical hat. I was able to snap a picture with a little local girl who was very excited to be in my selfie. Another very cool experience was being able to try several different types of foods made by some local cafes. I have seasonal allergies so pollen is never my friend, but I went right for it and ate some bee pollen in honey tea. Not only was the tea absolutely delicious (and I didn’t die), but there were bees flying around and landing on all the little cups looking for some honey. The added effect of the bees made the tea taste even better. Although most of the day was moving from one tourist activity to the next, it was really interesting to see how these locals have embraced the tourists and how they benefit from this new source of business. Vietnam itself is a country of resilience, so of course, the people of the delta will grow and adapt as well to the changing economy and environment.

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