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Our last tour day in VN was reserved for a trip down the infamous Mekong River. Mary Ann and I had flown over the headwaters of the Mekong located high in the Himalaya mountains while we were in Nepal. We had floated on the Mekong when we visited the Golden Triangle area of Thailand. Both of those wonderful trips are archived in this blog.
I could not help but think that we were probably on the same molecules of water we saw leave the Himalaya. The length of the river is over 3000 miles, and it changes names according to the local dialect, but is always the Mekong to me.
We set out from Saigon (HCMC) early in the morning. We were in Vietnam at the start of the monsoon season. but so far we had not been monsooned. We had a lot of grey skies, but hardly any rain.
I was preparing my camera for the day when I noticed this scene in front of me. It made me laugh. A Mercedes passing this display of political bravado. Go figure.
Of course, the Mekong is a major waterway for commerce. The Vietnamese are hardworking people. All the boats have these eyes on the bow. I never did ask why.
Our boat captain advertising the company that employs him. There are quite a few tourists who take this trip.
As we started downriver we came upon this Catholic church. Catholicism is the second largest religion in VN. The French built many beautiful churches. This picture was taken in an area of the river known as the floating market. It s a gathering spot for agricultural vendors to sell wholesale to middlemen who sell to street vendors . Each boat had a bamboo pole sticking 20 or so feet in the air with whatever they were selling impaled on it. If they were selling watermelons, there would be a watermelon 20 feet up. The sky was so grey I could not get a picture worth sharing with you.
We constantly passed river boats, all set up for commerce
We left the main channel of the Mekong and headed up a canal. People live all along this canal and make a living bringing goods to the floating market. This canal reminded both Mary Ann and me of a canal that went from Almirante Bay to Changinola years ago in Panama. With the glaring exception that there were no birds on this canal.
This boat was all ready to head for the floating market to sell Rambutan fruit. This is a variety of the lychee. The difference is these are hairy on the outside. In fact the word comes from the word for hair. My wife tells me these were for sale in Panama when we lived there. I do not remember that, perhaps some of my faithful readers could let me know in a comment?
Inside they are the same. The red hairy shell comes off very easily. The white meat inside is soft and delicious. This is something I look forward to whenever I am in SE Asia. However, I cannot figure out what human first figured out these were edible!
We got off the boat to take a walk along the canal. I especially liked this little bridge.
The walk led us to a Bonsai garden and tea house where were given a pot of tea and some local lore. These Bonsai trees are very very old. But the tea was fresh.
Then we went further up the canal in a little cayuco style rowboat. This was our rower.
A boat full of locals headed for town passed us by. They were very jocular and greeted us with smiles. That is a lot of people in that boat! But they do not weigh much.
I love this picture of our rower. I hope you do. I think it is my second favorite photo from Vietnam. By the way, we truly over tipped her. I did not know that Mary Ann had already tipped her too much when I tipped her too much. We tend to ruin it for future travelers...too bad! These people earn it.
Our last stop on the Mekong was at a brick factory. Everything being built in VN these days (and yes there is quite a construction boom) is made with this same style of brick. This is the kiln. They fire the kiln with rice stalks. They do that for three reasons. Rice stalks are cheap, nothing should be wasted, AND, they do not have to burn the stalks and cause air pollution. In northern Thailand they just burn the fields and the air quality gets truly bad for a month every year. But here, they make bricks! Notice that the woman is inside the kiln. The women always have the hard job!
This girl had to schlepp the bricks across the factory to where they stack them for storage. Our guide said she was probably too young to be working.
We were done with our time on the Mekong river, our last tour of the trip. We got back into the car, and WHAM. The monsoon started. How our driver drove through this for two hours to get us back to Saigon, I'll never know. Yes, we tipped him as well. We had already inquired from our guide how much he earned a day. Then Mary Ann and I started discussing the amount of his tip between ourselves in Spanish. Our guide was surprised and laughed. He knew damn well what we were discussing! Anyway, we matched his salary for the day, and he was extremely grateful. Again, he earned it. I would NEVER have been able to drive through this torrential downpour.
I still have some pictures to show you and a few observations about VN to share, so there will be a final VN post, soon.
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