Friday, July 11, 2008
From Saigon, it's pretty easy to access the entire southern part of the country, and one of the most notable features is the famous Mekong River Delta. Both the rice basket of the country and the site of swampy battles during the American War (read: Vietnam War), it offered many sites and experiences. We got to do a home stay with a fabulous family that taught us how to cook some delta dishes and were exceptionally patient with Holly's Vietnamese.
Over two days, we took small boats throughout the many tributaries of the Mekong, visiting floating markets and islands throughout the delta. Even though we recognized that this was a big tourist event, it was still interesting to get a glimpse of life in this really rural part of Vietnam, and it was a nice contrast to the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh City. Life in the delta revolves around things you can do on, with, and in your boat. People sell fruit, vegetables and snacksfrom their boats. People shuttle things to and fro on their boats. Lot's of people sleep in their boat. And judging from the large numbers of children scampering around on the boats, people do a lot of not sleeping on their boats, too.
The people of the delta are extraordinarily industrious and do things with rice, coconuts and bamboo that most people would never imagined possible. We saw people making rice paper and noodles, and learned that three or four people can churn out 500 kg of noodles per day using tools made only from bamboo. People there make coconut candy and also make a curious concoction: cobras and scorpions steeped in rice wine. Did Doannie have a sample? Did he have two? Yes. Did Holly? No. Did she grimace and make the yucky face? Also yes.