Vietnam’s Mekong River (II): A Day in the Life — The Sun Always Rises

I expected the Mekong River jungle to be relatively silent. But it is not. In a humid, green undergrowth, I stride to the sound of distant thunder. A gasoline motor, at first just a low drone, eventually chugs by on some hidden tributary of the larger river, probably carrying locals going about their daily chores, or hauling lumber, or indulging tourists. My view is obscured by the ferns, palms, mangroves, and nature generally. Other interruptions on the path include a motor scooter, then a bicycle, issuing a weak beep to warn pedestrians; our tour group crowds over to the edge of the trail to let the traffic pass.

A rain is coming, as is common here in the Delta — a few hours drive and boat ride south of Ho Chi Minh City. Downpours are brief though, and welcoming residents along the way invite transients like me and our tour bundle onto their porches/patios, usually stocked with coffee, soda, candy and snacks, and even hammocks.

I marvel at the pace of life here along the maze of well-worn trails and also the wealth of flora and fruit leaning in over us, sometimes covering the ground. Sunlight plays with gloom but the effect on the senses is never dull. Water is creeping up alongside the pathway — this is tidal, and repeats itself multiple times during the day.

One more day in Vietnam and then I and my companions depart. We return to Ho Chi Minh City, and then fly further up the Mekong to Cambodia’s comparably vast wet basin (Kampuchea). (A report-blog on Cambodia/Siem Reap will follow in 2019).

I finish off this story about Vietnam mostly with pictures, depicting what is normal here on the southern edge of the South China Sea.

Laundry amongst the flowers

The neighborhood in the shade

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- -- Heraclitus

Eventually, our accommodations for the night appear amidst the palms and fronds alongside the waterway. It is large, well-appointed, clean and fun. Food and entertainment offer a cool respite after our walk and experience of a brief passing rain shower. This is apparently a kind of island in the marshland, deceptively inviting but at times surrounded by the brown tidal back flow that makes the delta so strange.

Catholicism is the largest non-native religion in Vietnam

At 5-am in the morning I set out to discover the neighborhood, as the sun was rising. Looking outside my window, peering through the mosquito net, there is murky water everywhere. However, the path off the porch is clear. An hour later, returning from a remarkably refreshing exploration of the area via an array of paths (I had to especially note landmarks and stay close to the main river, in order not to become irrevocably lost), I am very surprised. The B&B now is totally surrounded by water. I remove shoes and socks, roll up my pants above the knees, and join the frogs, toads, snakes, fish or whatever else is lurking under the lapping water. A brief slog through the mud brings me to the abundant breakfast waiting on a sun-drenched porch.

No worries though because in a short time the Mekong again retreated into the underbrush.

Sunrise, tide rising

Eyes on tree will be transferred to bow of the boat

Trip to town

Boat Monster

There are venomous snakes in Vietnam (some count over 30 kinds) including king cobra, Malayan pit viper, monocled cobra, banded krait, Malayan krait, pythons, and others. Vietnam also has unfriendly sea snakes. But visitors are most likely to encounter them only in cages or pickle jars. They are available to eat, according to your choice and flavor preference.

With their meat served up in a wide array of dishes and blood added to rice wine, snakes make a reputedly satisfying -- and nourishing -- meal in Vietnam.

According to a broadcast of CTV News (September 16, 2018), snake flesh is traditionally believed to help with cooling overheated body temperatures, relieving headaches and easing digestion.

“Restaurants will cook it steamed or fried with lemongrass and chilli and serve it with a rice wine mixed with snake blood,” said one chef. "We make use of every part of the snake except its head and its scales.” But only men over 50 should drink snake wine, as younger males are likely to experience "backache or impotence," said a restaurant owner.

Take a walk on the wild side....

Jack Fruit

Farewell, Vietnam -- This is last blog from me in 2018. Have a Merry Christmas and New Year. (I will offer a review of my impressions of Cambodia/Angkor Wat in 2019)

Young people gather for an evening party beside the Perfume River, Hue, Vietnam (2008) - - the future of the country, of course, awaits their contribution after memories of war recede — the river flows on.

"No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it's not the same river and he's not the same man." -- -- Heraclitus

#rivers #Mekong #Vietnamese #SoutheastAsia #fineartphotography #photography #scenery #travel #jungle

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