Our ship stayed overnight near Ho Chi Minh City, so we had a second day to enjoy the area. Instead of going back into the city, we traveled about 90 minutes, mainly west, to the Mekong River Delta. I have said this before but it bears repeating…Every country in SE Asia depends on a major river that carries its rainy season to the farmlands of mostly flat basin lands. The Mekong is this river for many countries. Its headwaters are in the Tibetan foothills, and it flows through China’s Yunnan Province before entering Myanmar. Then Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia, before finally entering Vietnam and forming a delta with other tributaries. The Vietnamese call it Nine Dragons because of the confluence of nine rivers. The Mekong is the fifth longest river in Asia, spanning almost 3000 miles. It is the “Mother River” to these people as it irrigates fields that provide about 60% of Vietnam’s rice. In other words, it feeds the whole country. During WWII, the Japanese siphoned off the rice to feed its troops, and two million of local Vietnamese died in the resulting famine.
Driving out, we passed acres of flat delta farmland, mostly rice paddies. There were also coconut palm trees, sweet potatos, and tropical fruit farms. The color was so green that I began to wonder whether this delta was as fertile as my beloved Central Valkey of California. On our tour thus far, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia told us they get, at most, two rice harvests per year. The Mekong gets seven in two years because of the constant water supply. Did you notice The Buddhist shine in the paddies to bless the harvest???
We visited the local temple before heading onto the river. There is a decidedly more Chinese feel, and I loved the appearance of the miniature trees. The fat Buddha is usually a symbol for prosperity in the future.
The river had two main types of vessels: Barges that carried the rice crop downriver to HCMC and fishing vessels. We cruised to an island about half an hour upriver, and we were supposed to break up into 4s to journey through small local canals in a Sampan (above), but the water level during the dry season was too low. Mmm, I don’t know, it didn’t look too Bear friendly!!!
I included a photo of their ten year old suspension bridge… Before its completion, the people took river ferries when crossing. A nice advancement but I’m sure there are many local ferries upriver.
I will admit that I felt closer to the War on this trip to the Mekong. I recall seeing many photos of American PT boats patrolling the river. There was serious fighting here, probably due to the importance of the food sources. Heck, I remember Martin Sheen (Apocalypse Now) and Sylvester Stallone (Rambo) traveling upriver to complete movie missions.
And now, it represents the farming heartbeat of a Tiger Economy…Friendly people working their fields and praying for prosperity. War is far away, for a temporal eyeblink in their 2000+ year history…We all hope it lasts a while longer.