The Mekong Delta…… What can I add that has not already been said? The name itself conjures up exotic images of dense jungle, a network of water canals and people living within it, from it and with it.
The lush vegetation is amazing and the water has a calming effect even though it is a rich murky brown. But it is the people – the wide smiles, often toothless, the sparkle in the eyes and the open and welcoming faces of the people here that make this place one of the most magical I have ever been to.
It’s often said that people make the place and the experience and I concur fully with this. People have the ability to make the most arbitrary landscape shine with magic or conversely, rob the most beautiful scene of all its beauty.
Our day starts with a 4.30am wake up. By 5.30am we are on a sampan cruising the river towards the floating market. There is no sunrise to speak of as it’s an overcast, drizzly day. The weather cannot dampen my mood. I am on the mighty Mekong, after all!
En route, our lady sampan driver stops for us to get a much-needed cup of coffee and toilet break. Strong, sweet coffee gives us a much-needed boost and energy kick.
It’s not long before we reach the floating market. We are treated to deliciously creamy smooth mango, sweeter than treacle pineapple and other exotic fruits that I cannot even name. With sticky fingers we snap away at the myriad of interesting faces and activities. The vendors are mostly ladies, ranging in age from teenagers to octogenarian. Regardless of age, they chatter and laugh continuously and create a warm and loving embrace to all foreigners. They welcome their photograph being taken and smile openly whenever a camera is pointed in their direction. They are never annoyed or angry and it’s easy to smile and laugh back in return. I feel like I have landed in photography nirvana!
We leave the market and make our way through the smaller canals where life along the river goes on unfazed. Men go about their fishing activities, ladies wash pots and pans, look after young children and almost always look up to smile and wave as we pass on by.
On our return to Can Tho after 8 hours on the river, we settle down to discuss and plan a rough itinerary for the weeks ahead. We have 5 weeks in which to visit 3 countries and many things to see and we want to make sure we plan accordingly. We agree that as much as we would like to spend more time exploring the waterways and the markets here, we need to move on. The Mekong will be with us through a large portion of our travels, and we are in no doubt that she will continue to mesmerize us whenever we are near.