Mekong Delta II

Unfortunately we both have a cold, which isn’t helping our enjoyment of this rather lovely place. It’s really very lush, with many more flowers, both wild and cultivated than we have seen anywhere else on the trip. Apart from one leg of the journey, we have managed to stay completely off Highway One, which is a relief. Cycling along narrow roads bordered on either side by small canals clogged with water plants and themselves lined by tall reeds, we are given the impression that we are surrounded by dense, untamed vegetation. Suddenly we’ll cross a bridge, leave the water behind and realise that we are in fact basically cycling through an enormous rice field, and it is only along the immediate riverside that the vegetation is unmanaged. Of course, the rice fields themselves are also water-based, and the only really dry parts of this area are the roads and (usually) the houses. To get to many houses from the road you have to cross a bridge over a private moat.

As you can imagine, water transport is very important, and definitely more practical than using the roads. Highway One is the same as ever, but any other road has a tendency to degenerate without warning into a single-lane bike track or, most excitingly, a river. This is probably why this region has so many water markets. Vendors turn up in the morning with a boat full of pineapples, or other produce, then buyers on smaller boats buy what they need, and ferry them back to their own villages. The water market we visited, at Cai Rang, is one of the larger markets, and is mainly wholesale. There would be ten or twenty boats all selling watermelons, followed by a group selling pineapples, followed by a group selling turnips. The sellers in their larger boats remain stationary, as the buyers move between them. I particularly liked the way the vendors would hoist an example of their merchandise up onto a stick, as though it were a flag, to signify what goods they had.

After we visited the water market, our boatman took us on a roundabout route back to town along several smaller canals. It was fun to see the canals from a different angle. It really is incredible how choked with plant life they are, and how vital they are to this area’s transportation network. Sadly, we are now leaving the Mekong delta behind us. We have one more stop before heading for Cambodia – the island of Phu Quoc, in the Gulf of Thailand. This Vietnamese island was formerly the Cambodian island of Koh Tral, so perhaps it will be a taste of things to come.

Photos of the Delta can be found here

We will be updating stats and maps soon

~ by Elephants on January 13, 2011.

One Response to “Mekong Delta II”

  1. The delta looks incredible! I especially love all of the pictures of the water market. Sorry to hear you both have colds, hopefully they clear up soon (and Matt doesn’t need to make another trip to hospital).

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