(Cai Be – Vinh Long – Can Tho)
Sept 1, 2011
I love when I visit a place and it is exactly as my imagination expects it ‘should’ be. This is thrilling and gives me some of my absolute happiest travel moments. The Mekong River and its tributaries evolved before my eyes, just as I expected. The river offers up its own style of life and watching people live out their daily lives on the banks of the river was amazing to witness and experience.
There is a great deal of poverty evident along the river as we witness people in the murky, brown ebb & flow using the waters as everything from a bathroom and wash-up area, as well as a toilet, a place to wash clothes and throw out dirty dish water, as well as a place to catch fish for eating. We are told there are no more crocodiles in these waters along the banks, but you know all kinds of snakes and water life exist in the muddy waters.
It’s also important to remember that there’s a great deal of pride also, to be found in a hard day’s work! This is the truth among most people we met in Vietnam. Good natured, hard-working, honest, happy people!
The Mekong is wide and raging at some points and slow and still at other points and just about every form of life activity is carried out on the River. You can witness life happening just about everywhere you look: petrol stations along the way, huge cranes on barges dredging sand and salt from the waters, men fishing in the low, shallow waters, shops offering caskets for sale, other factories selling rice products, coconut products and just about everything one could imagine.
The factories we visited were all family-owned and many generations would all work together to run the many operations of the business. Young men working over labour-intensive hot stoves cooking and puffing rice in black sand (the sand keeps it at a level temperature so the rice doesn’t burn) to make what we call “rice krispie” cookies, another line of women cutting and bagging the puffed rice into the single cut cookies and wrapping them in rice paper or plastic, others shaving coconut from the shell to make coconut milk we buy in cans off the shelf, and still others pressing the rice to make rice wine and rice vinegar.
Amazing factories and amazing way of life, living on the water. Of course there are many larger factories that use machines to do this, but these smaller, family-run factories along the Mekong Delta will sell their products to buyers along the Delta, who then sell to even larger buyers who may sell to markets overseas. Everything in the circle of life.
Hammock stops: It is the best thing I have ever seen. To offer drivers a place to rest and take a break from the heat if they are driving any long distance, there are everywhere you can see along the roadways, these rest stops or “hammock” stops. Small places where you can pull in your motorbike and jump in the hammock for a quick nap, and you’re on your way again. Fantastic. I am in FULL SUPPORT of the hammock stop!!
We ended our day in Vinh Long area.