Before experiencing the best of the Mekong Delta, my imagination cruised me down quiet rivers shaded by palms, while other sampans paddled over to sell me tropical fruits. I was shocked to discover there was very little serenity and very little shade. There were the canals of Ben Tre, but they were set aside for tourists, as you can see from our Raiden hats and in the faces of the happy boat people of the Mekong.
A more logical person would recognize that civilization started in the land between two rivers, and that future civilizations would follow suit. Like the more than twenty million Vietnamese–a quarter of the country’s population–who now live in the land between nine rivers (or the nine major branches) of the muddy Mekong. With a huge population comes the ugliness of industry, traffic, trash, and of course tourism.
But there were certain aspects of the Mekong Delta region that made the trip worthwhile.
The Best of the Mekong Delta
Homestay in the Mekong Delta
One of the best experiences in the Mekong Delta was our home stay. While it wasn’t exactly a stay in a home, our visit to the Hung Home Stay afforded us an extra journey down the river, providing a taste of the Mekong at dusk: Women washed their dishes and clothes while balancing on shaky boards that extended from their stilthouse homes. Fishermen bathed in the Mekong, toddlers leaned against baby gates as life swept past their inquisitive eyes, river weeds floated down in clumps while keeping heaps of trash buoyant in its network of leaves, men fixed their in-river bamboo fences that swayed with our wake.
The bamboo and palm leave huts we stayed in at Hung’s, while slightly dirty, were on the tranquil waters and gave us the chance to chat with the Vietnamese and other travelers as we shared Elephant Ear Fish that we wrapped up with rice paper, vermicelli and basil. Marissa and I dined with a Dutch family and listened to the father recount stories of traveling through South America in the ’80s and playing for the Netherlands national water polo team. Later in the evening, the owner, Hung, handed out bags of rice wine, which he had punctured with a chopstick that acted like a stopper.
To be continued…