There is almost too much to share for our later half in Ho Chi Minh city.
On our third day in HCMC we took a tour down to the Mekong delta river floating market. This was a major item on my list of things to see while in Vietnam. It was a two hour drive to the boat station, but with our driver it took just over an hour…I shouldn’t be surprised the way this country drives.
We arrived at the boat station just before 11am, the heat was already beating down on us but the weight was the water in the air lifting from the river. After we sorted a few details out with the boat tour company we were on our way and “starting the A/C” according to our boat tour guide.
Tip: If you want to see the Mekong Delta Floating market like the image below, get there early! All of the morning markets start at 5am and start floating away around 10am.
(Image found on Google)
So we missed the height of the hustle and bustle of the market (which I was really bummed about) but that didn’t stop us from finding the heart of the community – whose entire lives rotates around the river. Our guide took us behind the scenes of many of the homes and businesses that most people don’t see when they take a tour of the Mekong Delta…it pays to be a photographer sometimes!
I was amazed. The “people of the river” waste nothing, I grew up hearing my whole life from my dad “waste not, want not” but the tiny villages that sustain themselves from the river take that phrase the a whole new meaning. For example, one family in the village makes coconut candy. They not only use the inter of the coconut for the flavor shavings but then they burn the shells in the stoves they use that for cooking the family meals. Nothing goes to waste!
One of the villages is known for making rice paper, like for spring rolls. One of the methods they use to cook the rice formula is with heated sand from the bottom of the river. They super heat the sand and use that as a recyclable agent for their fire! I grew up living off of the land, and visiting villages in Alaska who also lived nearly entirely off of the land – but I have never seen anything like this before!
The tour took us through back rooms of people’s homes while they sang traditional songs and served sliced fruit that was picked that morning – pineapples, mangoes, watermelon and several others. Or we watched, with sweat beading down our backs, while they popped rice and turned it into candy right before our eyes. They made rice candy and coconut toffee, rice paper (like for egg rolls), fermented whiskey and carved figurines all in the common rooms of their homes that have been converted to stores.
What I found to be fascinating about the floating market is how they advertise what they were selling. High above the boats are long bamboo poles, tied to the top of the poles was the items they were selling. Sweet potatoes, fruits of all kinds and other assorted vegetables hung height above the water – telling everyone on the river what is being sold on their boats. What an interesting way to show what was for sale!
After our tour around the Mekong delta river floating market, our tour guide took us to the paddle boat dock. Here we disembarked our larger boat and got into a small row boat, which would take us through smaller channels of the Mekong delta. Tiny homes along the river banks, whose floors disappear during high tide, chicken coops on roofs to stay above flood waters.
Living in a world outside of a world, that is life on the Mekong Delta River.
After we returned back to HCMC we started the sober process of packing. I am thankful for this experience, and to share it with my dad and my daughter. It was a learning experience on so many levels; culturally, parental, historically and so much more.
Until my next adventure…till then Traveling Photographer Out