Morning on the Mekong Delta
March 27th, 2021
Today we’re exploring the Mekong Delta near Can Tho, with a post I’ve refreshed from 2012.
Tomorrow we’ll cruise down a smaller river to see more of life and business on the Mekong Delta.
Post of the Day: Adding a bit of light to the darkness as we get through the pandemic together. This series features travel photos from my archives, shared with you while staying close to home.
Sunday morning we arose at the excruciating hour of 6:00 a.m. to cruise the river to the floating market. We had not slept well — an army of mosquitoes had entered our room through a deck door that had been ajar (yet was hidden by the curtains). We were both bitten, and in the wee hours J turned on the lights and started waging war against them, jumping on furniture with furious swats and thuds against the walls and ceilings. It must have sounded like a bar fight in our room. But it had to be done — we’ve already encountered Dengue Fever once in Vietnam (J got it on the last day of a trip here trip in 2010), and neither one of us wants to go through that again.
Out at the river’s edge, we boarded the boat — with breakfast provided while floating down the river. What a fantastic way to see the town come to life on the water. With the sun rising and the breeze blowing, we sipped coffee and watched the world drift by as we drifted, too.
Can Tho is located on a distributary, or smaller river, that flows away from the Mekong River, through the Delta to the East Vietnam Sea. The Delta holds a complex network of waterways with life and commerce dependent on this artery of Southeast Asia. Here, water is life.
The Mekong River flows 3,000 miles (nearly 5,000 km) through six countries before meeting the sea, and Vietnam is the last of them. What happens upstream directly affects the Mekong Delta. Dams built and proposed by other countries affect natural water flow, productivity, biodiversity and a way of life that has been sustained by the river for more than 2,000 years. At the same time, rising sea levels threaten the flood plains from the other direction. The region is both extremely valuable and extremely vulnerable, with the Delta being the most productive region of Vietnam and the Mekong River being second in the world in biodiversity (the Amazon being first).
It was a holiday during the weekend that we were in Can Tho. We heard the market wouldn’t be busy, but there was still quite a bit of activity. Boats of all shapes and sizes were shifting around and cruising the river with piles of fruits and vegetables. When we had floated past the whole market, we transferred to a smaller boat so we could maneuver back through the morning bustle and get a closer look.
Each boat was piled with a particular type of fresh fruit or vegetable, advertised at the top of a tall pole attached to the side of the boat for everyone to see. Buyers seeking that product would simply dock alongside and work out a deal with the seller.
We came across a boatload of pineapple, literally. In the midst of shooting photos, a speedy boat helmed by a mother and son pulled up next to us offering pineapples and bananas in perfect ripeness.
The Mekong Delta covers more than 15,000 square miles (40,000 square kilometers). On the van ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho, we crossed the Mekong — by far the most massive river I’ve ever seen. Unfortunately the tranquil scene at the surface belies much deeper issues affecting its future and the lives of people living here.