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Friday, April 22, 2011

And we're rolling, rolling

if you come down to the river
i bet you gonna find some people who live
you don't have to worry if you got no money
people on the river are happy to give

~ tina turner

The second day of our trip found us on a boat cruise down the Mekong Delta.  I would venture to say that the Mekong Delta is the very heart of Vietnam.  The region produces 50% of Vietnams rice crops every year and hundreds of fruits and vegetables are grown here and exported all over the country (and the world!). The Mekong River starts in Tibet and flows through China, Burma, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and finally empties out to the South China Sea. Dams constructed upstream in Thailand and China threaten to cut off the supply of water to the region (not to mention nearly all of Cambodia), and many of the countries have formed joint commissions to take charge of the rivers resources.

We drove a couple of hours outside of Saigon and jumped on a boat that would take us up and down the river, stopping at floating markets and shops that made other traditional goods. The floating market was my favorite part. Each boat specialized in selling one particular item. Many times they were farmers who were growing the crops. Once harvested they would take the to the river to sell their goods. Each boat had a symbol on the top of the boat, signaling to customers their specialty. Sometimes it was potatoes, sometimes it was pineapples, sometimes it was watermelon. 

There were dozens of tourist boats floating along the market, the children (both on boats and on land) were constantly running to the edge to shout "HELLO!" and wave to the passing westerners. 

People live and work on the river, never having to stray too far from their homes to grow, harvest and sell their goods. We stopped at a place that made traditional puffed rice snacks, rice crackers and candies.

Our boat, the Cai Be Princess, was amazing.  They gave us a snack of hot tea and fresh fruit before taking us to an incredible lunch.

We had lunch at an old Indochine Villa, Le Longanier, that has been restored into a restaurant and hotel. It really captured the old French colonial architecture that is visible across Vietnam.  It was a stunning location and has been restored beautifully. The food was amazing - a six course lunch featuring the freshest ingredients from the delta region. Lunch started with a nice cold beer and vegetable soup, followed by local spring rolls, prawn salad on fish crackers, fried river fish that was then made in to fresh spring roll wraps, pork cooked in a clay pot and finally finished by yogurt with fresh fruits. To say it was filling would be an understatement.


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