A Ride Through the Murky Waters of Mekong: An Introduction to the Mekong Delta

by - Thursday, November 05, 2015

Culture is what makes you a stranger when you are away from Home 
- Philip Bock -

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Long boats, fishing boats, and narrow wooden sampans floating on brown murky waters stretched wide and long; with slippery slopes lined with mangroves and river palms on one side of the riverside while the other are filled with modern day piers, shops and complexes thronged by buses packed with tourists abound.

It is an amusing picture as one side of the riverbank portrays the quiet and simple life of the river settlers and on the other is of that of modernization.

That's what the Mekong Delta is all about; it is that passage of connection from the long stretching fingers of flowing waters from the Mekong River as it heads towards the open sea.

Connecting not just from the river way to the wide embrace of the sea, but it is interesting how this section has also contrasted the lives on both the river right across from that window of civilization in the most dynamic style.

Located 161 kilometers away from the chaotic motorcycle scenes of Ho Chi Minh city, the Mekong Delta is that window to the local cultural scene of Vietnam.

This is where the scenes of agriculture and aquaculture dominate and unfold, revealing all the daily scenes that take place on this vast nutrient-rich land and water; contributing to the sector of the nation's economic growth.

History 
This was formerly a swampland; once regarded as barren land.

It is interesting that this used to be neglected to its swampy conditions.

The French came into Vietnam and saw to it to drain the area to transform it into a base of productivity; to pave way for the source of their economy by planting trees, fruiting plants, rice and even mines.
They were successful.

The Viet Cong sought shelter in this region once too, and it was their presence which led to the attacks from the US army during the Vietnam War; hot on their trail and determined to vanquish their presence completely.
Chemical herbicides, notoriously and unethically used, were sprayed in this very region during the Vietnam War, in their attempts to exterminate the Viet Cong population.

It was not just the Viet Cong who suffered the insidious effects of the chemical warfare; which ended up in a mass murder of nature in this destructive act.
Crops, agricultural lands and the mangrove forests were all victims of this massive attack, in the cold-blooded chemical intervention which was soon slammed by the rest of the world.

The effects lasted for life.

However, nature had her way or recovering and in a miraculous manner as surprisingly, despite its dark past, this area of the delta is now one of the most prosperous in the nation; boasting of the bountiful productions of food supplies and crops, attributed to the natural fruits of the earth found on its soil.

TODAY

The soil, impregnated by the bountiful flooding waters of the river are just bursting with fertility with more than two thirds being put to agricultural use; growing most of the supplies which feed the entire nation.

Most of the rich soil were the foundation of the vast rice paddy fields; which make up most of the agricultural sector in this region and even contributing to the entire rice production and supply for Vietnam and export, and yet still have leftovers.
The total rice production here in this region exceed that of Korea and Japan's put together.
It is that much rice.



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There is no reason to even ponder on Mekong Delta being hailed as the Rice Bowl of Vietnam.



Vietnam is in fact the World's Second Largest Exporter of rice; trailing closely behind Thailand.

The nation is also ranked as the World's Seventh Largest Consumer of rice, and the World's Fifth Largest Producer of rice.


The Vietnamese love their rice; and regarded rice as a "Gift from God".
(I have previously shared on the story on rice here, in my introduction to the Vietnamese cuisine).

(Excerpt from the earlier post)

Legend of Rice according to the Vietnamese folks
Rice is deemed as a gift or a blessing from heaven, and the Vietnamese refer to rice as "white gold" in their local language.

In fact there is even a local Vietnamese folklore associated with the origins of rice in this country.
Legend has it that there were no rice in the country in the very beginning and they had to pray for it.
Rice was not produced and they had to plead from heaven for rice and their prayers were answered with the arrival of large balls; which were actually the form of rice.
These large balls would appear in each and every house; becoming their main source of food.
One day however, in one such household, a woman was sweeping the floor in her own house in preparation to welcome the rice ball, as ordered by her husband and it was at that moment that the rice ball landed in the house while she was still sweeping.
The rice ball then coincided with the stick of the broom and broke into many tiny pieces.
Since then, the people had to work with their own hands to grow rice for their own consumption.


*Rice is highly regarded and treated as a precious equity here in Vietnam*


While rice make up the majority of the agricultural population in this region, it is not the only one as it is joined by the company of the tropical fruits, coconut palms and even sugar cane which are grown extensively in this southwestern part of Vietnam.


GETTING TO MEKONG DELTA
A day trip from Ho Chi Minh City via the bus would take approximately two hours to reach the Mekong Delta.

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We were greeted by lush and green watery lands which make up the rice paddy fields dotted with little pops of white standing awkwardly in the sea of green; while the farmers homes stood on the other edge.

It is quite a sight to behold, with those being the tombs erected near the homes and on the paddy fields; where the living and dead cohabit on that same piece of land, keeping the departed in close loving memory.

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While the rice paddy fields were quite enchanting sights, it was the journey on the Mekong Delta which was the main highlight of the trip.


Riding on the Mekong River

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It was an adventure and an experience as we ride on the murky waters, but this is just that first picture and the little opening window to the life on the Mekong Delta.

An area which encompasses more than 39,000 square kilometers (15,000 square mi) of southwestern Vietnam; geographically estimated, though it could expand depending on the season as the waters of the river flood and form the watery coverage over more areas in the region.



This is an introduction to the Mekong Delta, the Nine Dragon Delta; or the Đồng bằng Sông Cửu Long as it is locally known or in short, the Western Region.


(The delta is known as the Nine dragon due to its wide network of waterways and the distribution of the flow which separates into nine tributaries


This is the side of Vietnam's hidden scenes of the local agriculture; where the nation depends on for majority of their food supplies, a place where their best treasures are kept.


Mekong Delta is Vietnam's treasure trove, biologically and culturally.

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*Stay tune for more on the Mekong Delta as the journey continues...



Rivers know this; there is no Hurry.
We will get there someday
- A.A Milne -




*Author's Note: 
This is not a sponsored/promotional post, and solely based on author's personal expenses, opinions and preferences and do not represent the general public. 
Experiences vary from one individual to another.
You do not have to agree with me.


This is based on my personal experience and is told in a subjective manner, entirely from my perspective.

Photos all belong to me and are copyrighted.







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