We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon) around 3:30 a.m. on the overnight train from Nha Trang. To avoid the temptation of napping in our hotel room all day—oh, and to see one of the world’s most diverse biological sites—we booked a day tour to the Mekong Delta along with two other people from our main tour group.
Rich with life of all kinds, more than 10,000 species have been discovered in the Delta including the Laotian rock rat, once thought to be extinct. It’s also under great risk due to climate change. Some estimates suggest two of its provinces could be completely flooded in the next 15 years due to rising sea levels.
On Turtle Island, we rode from a coconut candy-making kitchen to lunch on a motorcycle with a seating box in the back. The four of us decided to put on the provided helmets more for fun than safety (mine had a drawing of a teddy bear with the words “bears” and “hapry dreams” on it. Yes. “Hapry.”). However, the helmets proved handy as we dodged low-hanging palm leaves. I even had a bundle of bananas bounce off my helmet!
The Mekong River passes through five other countries (China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia) before reaching Vietnam. At the Delta, all of the silt and sediment collects, making the river appear the color of chocolate milk.
A boat full of bamboo fish traps parked along the shore of a creek. Nearly 60 percent of Vietnam’s fishing output and a quarter of its agricultural land is located in the Mekong Delta.
Part of our tour included a boat trip on a stream leading back to the river. The woman paddling the boat was clearly working hard, each stroke accompanied with grunts that grew louder as the trip went on. She earned an extra tip when the four of us leaned left to take a photo, swinging the boat hard to the right toward the muddy bank. Oops!
Traditional river boats parked at shore have eyes painted on the hulls. The stories say the eyes are meant to scare off river monsters while also helping guide sailors back to land on their many journeys.
The traditional conical hats are available for sale all over Vietnam. On a particular sunny day, it seemed like a good investment. It would also be donned by our guide in a demonstration of the carrying pole during the tour.
More Photo of the Day posts from Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and Vietnam