We entered the Vietnamese Mekong Delta using the only proper way, which obviously is by the boat. Mekong is really wide. We couldn’t see much of what’s going on on the river banks. Only later, on the Vietnamese side of the border, did we have a chance to see the life bustling in the canals, as well as, yet another, Mekong sunset.
As it happens, while crossing the border on the boat, we had preconceived notions about Vietnam floating in our heads. We should swear never to listen to other tourists’ opinions again, or rather to nay-sayers in general, for it didn’t take long for Vietnam to cast away all our doubts. The Mekong Delta provided everything we like and expect from a trip and more. We got immediately pulled into this cauldron and let go, giving the region a chance to show what it has to offer. The people are open and have no inferiority complex. They live in a different way and in a different reality, and that’s fine. They are eager to get to know us and curious about our plans. The place is exotic enough to fascinate us and the nature is untamed. Also, there is an incredible abundance of really cheap food.
It seems to us best things happen with no camera around. Like the time we stumbled upon a pretty well-hidden seafood restaurant with tanks full of giant prawns, crabs, clams and what not. And no sooner did we finish our grilled delicacies and Saigon lagers than the occupants of the nearby table decided to join us. There was more food and beer to ease the language barrier. Or the time when, in a city where there supposedly were no good restaurants, we found a pho place with two gigantic pots on a wood-burning stove and while we were devouring the delicious soup, the cooks began pulling out two full buckets of huge bones from the pots. No skimping on the base, let me tell you. These are also the times we got to watch the colorful menagerie of the streets — people napping in absurd positions, folks reading newspapers in front of their shops, children obliviously playing or a lady offering us fruits before she is even ready to start a conversation. We see these snapshots one after the other and without a camera we feel a part of this world rather than intruders.
The life in the delta happens on land as well as on water. The floating markets, a main tourist attraction here, are, to some extent, a thing of the past, but the canals still offer a plethora of interesting sights and insights, an irresistible mixture of beauty and ugliness. Boats here have eyes, whole families live inside them, with chickens to boot.
It is said that the delta is the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, delivering a huge portion of food the Vietnamese consume. While on a moto-taxi or a bus, traveling through a beautiful area between An Binh and Ben Tre, we see little of the rice fields, but there are endless orchards of rambutan, longan, coconut and water apples. There are many seedling nurseries and gardens as well. The life force here is unstoppable and plants explode from every patch of ground.
We can see more clearly now that our perception of reality depends on how we feel and that what we see is also a reflection of how we feel. Paradoxically, when we feel good now in our travels and experience more, we also miss home and people close to us more. We travel on…