Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Kong

Just about to run out and get the train for Nha Trang on the Central/East coast of Vietnam, thought I fire off a quick blog post before I leave. Today I was up early at 6am to go on a day-trip to the Mekong Delta, which as usual left me rushing for the bus after a breakfast involving a french baggette, scrambled eggs, and lots of coffee. I made my bus, and proceeded to make the 3 hour journey south to the Delta. I was surrounded by excited tourists, travellers, and a few locals. I find long bus rides in Vietnam much more agreeable and excitement filled than long bus rides elsewhere in B.C. or Canada. It may be because I'm in a foreign country, and there is so much to see and stare at, the city fascinates me, and the driving is downright ridicules. Although to the first time observer, the driving may seem outrageous, it really is the best form of managed-chaos that I have ever witnessed. Anyways, two hours went by, and there I was at the Delta with our guide Master P (no relation to the rapper).

The Delta, while seemingly to the untrained eye looks dirty and abominable, really is not. According to Master P, the water has a brownish tinge due to the abundance of silt in the water. Much like the Fraser river, although I did see a plethora of garbage and random objects in the water. The Mekong Delta serves to irrigate the race paddies in the area. Vietnam is second largest rice producing nation in the world, and the nutrients in the Mekong serves to replenish the race paddies. There were four main islands that most travelers venture out to; Unicorn, Turtle, Dragon, and Phoenix. All very exciting names indeed. Since we were on the 1 day trip, costing a total of 8$ USED, we only got to visit Unicorn and Dragon, which nevertheless provided great excitement. The boat ride took a total of 20 minutes to get to Unicorn, on the way we saw plenty of fishing boats, junks, and barges. The water was relatively calm and we all made it to Unicorn safely. Upon arrival, we visited a bee farm, and sampled some delicious tasting bee tea, with some bee wine. The bee wine was quite strong, but good nonetheless. After we tromped off to a music show put on by the locals of that island. The traditional music was great, and most of us tipped a few American dollars for the show they put on.

Good to note is that many of these larger islands on the Mekong Delta depend on travelers for subsistence, due to the struggling economy, the demand for fish and rice has dropped significantly. Many of the locals have gone bankrupt and are buried in massive debt. While their persistence and touting may seem overly annoying, it is good to show a sense of humility and not let our ignorance kick in. A simple "no thank you" usually does the trick and the local merchant will move on to the next traveler. Some sensibility will go a long way when traveling abroad, and helps us understand differing socio-economic conditions. In a sense, seeing the rampancy poverty in Vietnam has made me tremendously grateful of the situation that I'm in. While it's easy to whine and mope about the poor indebted student life, it is also good to understand the enormously fortunate position that we are in. My early travels in Vietnam have in a sense made me more humble, realizing that the frivolous and useless items of our society carry less importance than being truly happy. I think happiness eludes many of us because of the great expectations we all have in our lives. To drive the newest car, live in the biggest house, and own the best toys. Anyways,

we proceeded afterwards for a canal ride for about 20 minutes. The canal's in the Mekong are suppose to contain a large amount of crocodiles. We were forewarned to keep our hands and feet inside and sit in the middle of the boat. To my deep dismay, I did not get to see any such crocodile. Our ride went smoothly, and we ended up at a coconut candy factory.... The coconut candies are great, the locals make them from scratch, literally extracting the coconut to make candies to sell in big metropolitan cities. I will post pictures of this process along with others of Mekong on my face book. I purchased a few packs of the candies that I plan to send home, as long as I don't eat them prior to getting to the post office. No promises there. The coconut candy apparently is so good that they many other manufacturers have attempted to counterfeit them.

After the coconut factory, we proceeded to go to lunch after a few boat rides. The lunch involved pork chops, mixed vegetables, rice and tempura. It was delicious, and after a long morning, some of us kicked it back with a few beers. After the beers wore off, I went on a bike ride along the island. The bike ride took me through some of the slums on the island, and left deep saddening in my stomach. As I cruised on my 1-speed, some others joined me, and we ended up riding to a hammock half-shelter. There Brian and I set up hammocks, put on some music from his phone, and took a long nap. Then it was time to set home, taking the boat back, we headed towards the port to go back to Saigon. On the boat ride home I met two girls traveling from Paris, Fran and Marguerite. They were both graduate students who recently graduated from Sciences-Po university in Paris. Funny thing was, my friend Dr. Andrew is currently studying at Sciences-Po University. Fran works at the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) in Paris and spoke three languages (German, English and French). Impressive enough, she told me she was contemplating an offer to go to the Congo to provide humanitarian assistance and guidance to the people their. She was a political science & history major, with a two masters, one in environmental sustainability and urban development. A girl after my own heart! this is something I definitely would like to get into when I finish graduate/law school.

However, they Fran and Marg had to leave to go to their cousins. I was on my way up to Nha Trang, and probably won't seem them again. They only have 2 weeks of holidays from their important work, and were heading back to Paris soon. I hope to run into more travelers like them, who are smart, multicultural, and have a strong passion for creating real change in the world.

Anyways, I need to run! Train is coming soon and I need to cab my way out their. As usual, I hope all is well to those reading this, and I will post when I'm in Nha Trang!! Also, I’ve been posting without reading through it again, if there are grammar and spelling errors, I do apologize..not!

one love,

1 comment:

  1. That's great that you had so much fun looking at islands, a murky river, visiting coconut candy factories and bee farms.
    I'm glad that you got to meet people from Sciences Po. I was recently kicked out of Welcome Program classes, and now work as a translator. I talked to a graduate advisor for European Studies, and will plan to have a meeting with a graduate advisor for International Security. I'm glad that you are having so much fun.