Our week of exploring Saigon had come to an end, so it was time to venture out of the city and travel across the Mekong Delta region, the agricultural heartland of Southern Vietnam. We were making our way to Châu Đốc on the banks of the Mekong river on the border with Cambodia as we would be taking a boat upstream to Cambodia’s capital Phnom Penh.
First though, we'd stay in Can Tho which is a city in the middle of the Mekong Delta and is well known for its canals and nearby floating markets which is a popular attraction for tourist as shows a unique slice of life in the area. We would even see an opportunity to help the locals unload their boat of produce which was a fun experience. Exploring the canals and witnessing the floating market is the main attraction of Can Tho, so we quickly moved on to Châu Đốc.
While in Châu Đốc we would spend another day cruising through the villages on hired scooters, meeting friendly locals and seeing what we could. Not once did the Vietnamese kids (and many adults did too) not wave or say hello as we passed; certainly a lot more welcoming and friendly than the city folk! A short ride through the countryside there is a hill(Sam Mountain) in the middle of the plains that overlooks the border town of Chau Doc (where our boat to the Cambodian capital departed) and the surrounding Mekong Delta.
Reminders of the war that ended some 30 years ago are never too far away. We have meet limbless people of the age to have lived during the 70’s, many motorbike riders wear army style helmets, bomb craters still scar some areas and there are still mines and unexploded devices in the jungles. For the most part though, you wouldn’t know that a generation ago this country had 1.7 million of its people killed during 10 years of war. Sure the touts in the tourist areas maybe annoying, but the locals, especially in the rural areas, are nothing but hospitable and friendly. They may live simple subsistent lives, but surrounded by family and with food in their stomach, they seem perfectly happy.
Someone told me a proverb about the rural Vietnamese lifestyle while I was travelling through the Mekong Delta and it kind of sums it up the place well, it went something like this:
A Vietnamese man was fishing off a rickety old wooden pier one day, catching food for his family, when an American man came up to him and said, “Hi there, this is great spot you have here, people would pay a lot of money to come here and visit this place. If I owned a place like this I would build a small guesthouse and make a little business out of it.” “Would you?” said the fisherman. “Yeah, and once I had made enough money from that, I would build a hotel next to it and after few years, if that was successful, I would turn it into a resort” the American went on. “That’s interesting” said the fisherman. Then the American added, “Once I had made enough money out the resort I would sell it and then I could fish all day”.