Trip Start Feb 17, 2007
79Trip End Apr 13, 2012
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It's a frequent image from the Vietnam war movies. Little boats with heavy arms sputtering along a narrow river in the jungle. At that time, the Mekong River was one of the most dangerous areas to travel. Today, the Mekong Delta is the agricultural heart of Vietnam.
The mighty Mekong originates way up in Tibet. It traverses seven countries and splits into eight main rivers. By the time the Mekong reaches lower Vietnam, it is rich with silt. Many people mistake the river for being dirty and polluted. The Mekong Delta, however, is fertile enough to provide enough rice and fruit to feed the entire country. And make Vietnam the #2 exporter of rice in the world. Excess silt is regularly dredged for the country's rapidly-growing construction.
Because of the hot climate, the Mekong Delta produces three crops of rice every year. Also, there are more varieties of tropical fruit. Many consider the fruit here to be the tastiest in the country. Common fruit like bananas, pineapples and mangos suddenly have more appeal. Then add mangosteen, longon berry, jack fruit, sapodilla and dragon fruit. Mmmmm. Learning about the cuisine here has been a quick study for this kid.
My Tho, population about 100,000, is the main city from which tours springboard into the delta. I find the people in the rural areas to be quite kind-hearted and welcoming. They are usually happy to talk to foreigners. And surprised when I start conversing in their own language. I love their reaction. Usually, Vietnamese are friendly and engaging. Once in a while, though, a few would simply repeat my "xin chao" greeting in a deliberate and measured tone. After a few months, a local guide explained why. Because of my excitement, I changed the tone from falling (\) to rising (/). Translated: "give me soup."