Our guide for the Mekong Delta is Tai a very happy local that speaks reasonable English.
Before boarding our Sampan we are invited to lunch at Les Longaniers where we ate Elephants Ear fish in rice pancakes with vegetables.
After lunch Tai tells us how beautiful the cruise will be as he introduces us to Captain Coung (pronounced Coun)and two cabin boys Bao (Bow) and Duong (Yun).
“Don’t worry” he says “you have very romantic time .. they sleep on the other side of the door and give you privacy” good thing to know!
The boat is a beautiful Sampan, one of five. Truly the best way to see the Mekong.
The Mekong River is very wide and has tributaries out of it everywhere. The river we are on surprisingly is called Mekong River ‘Before’ and the other river running almost parallel to it called Mekong River ‘After’ … of course!
But when I query this I eventually establish that if we’re to travel in the opposite direction the names of the two rivers reverse!
Industry along the Mekong is vast from farming to industrial factories.
Vietnamese are very resourceful making just from rice alone .. rice paper, sweets, the husks are used for burning and they even make ricepops (think popcorn).
Coconuts are sweet to drink when fresh and the outside is green. It is made into sweets, milk, cream, oil, and even a tea cosy. And then when the outside of the coconut is dried out, it is turned into firewood .. the waste from this then used as fertiliser!
The brick factories show a part of Vietnamese life not seen elsewhere.
First clay is removed from farms this is then made into bricks through extrusion, left to dry in the sun and then placed in kilns.
The kilns are sealed and heated to 1000 degrees using the husks from rice and then eventually after 25 days the kilns are broken open and after a further two weeks the cooled bricks removed with conveyor belts to ships waiting to take this new building material.
An interesting fact is that the black bricks nearer the bottom of the kiln are deemed the best whilst the others turn red, the lightest at the top of the kiln.
Sa Dec is a small town in the Delta where around 150,000 live. The old Chinese house there is famous from a movie called ‘The Lover’ a French film about a wealthy Chinese man falling in love with a young french girl, but whose paths were to be separated by their cultures. A short film was shown .. the government deeming the full version to ‘sexy’ too watch!
In the local market fresh vegetables, fruit, rice and fish are sold.
Tai happily points to one fish and says “look.. elephant fish.. just like you had for dinner”