Day 015 – Mekong Delta

2008/09/19 § Leave a comment

Yesterday I have been to the Mekong delta city of Cantho, where I managed to organize a boat trip to see some floating markets and the daily life (or an impression of it) of the people who populate the small and tiny rivers and streams of the delta. I watched the little boats buzzing around and people exchanging goods. People haggling for prizes, driving a short distance away with their boat, thereby following a ritual that demonstrates to the business opponent that his/her prize is unacceptable, only to come back after a minute and closing the deal at a mutually acceptable prize. Fun to see, hard to do. I have not yet gotten the hang on the haggling. However, one word of advice you see repeatedly in guide books is true: approach it with humor!

Little supermarket on Mekong river

Little supermarket on Mekong river

The delta region once again revealed a beautiful though at times a rather poorly maintained environment. And it revealed once more how difficult it is going to be to convince or convey the idea of environmental protection to a people who struggle to survive.

That said, the Mekong is the main agricultural region of Vietnam and feeds much of the rest of the country. I visited some fruit gardens where the lushest plantations are maintained one can think of. Nevertheless, live along the creeks is basic, crude and attached closely to the daily struggle of survival. Seeing the people here exchange their simple goods and lead there simple lives demonstrates rather clearly how detached we have become in industrialized nations from the more dire straits of fighting for survival in its most fundamental ways.

Little river arm of Mekong

Little river arm of Mekong

However, people here still are in the lucky situation of the ready availability of food. In general I wonder if Vietnam resembles the developing states of Europe (not, obviously, when it comes to the cellphones everyone here seems to have), or whether it reflects the future of Europe rather. This obviously is a question of how human kind handles certain pressing issues. Personally I feel that I rather see our future here and that the future of Vietnam is not as bright as one would wish for these cheerful (if sometimes bugging) people.

Come here and have a look for yourself, it is well worth it and great fun seeing how people so similar to us can live so dissimilar to us.


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