These are photos to accompany the post of 04/08/2012 "Down By The Riverside", which poor internet service prevented including.
We were fortunate to being to drive on a new highway to the Mekong Delta. Formerly, the drive would have taken hours and required a few trips by ferry. That said, traffic density and speed have increased, which makes any trip an adventure. Everyone is in a hurry, even if not all vehicles can achieve great speed. Driving in this country is not for the faint-hearted.
Travel by boat is more relaxed. Life of those living next to and on the river seems to be pleasant. As I mentioned, life here resembles that of people living on the canals of Bangkok. Commerce is rampant and people are busy thriving, surviving, or just going with the flow.
We took a tour of the Mekong River. Well, we visited a portion of one of the Mekong’s nine tributaries. One would need weeks and a helicopter to tour the entire Mekong and its delta.
Anyways, the minivan trip from Saigon to the river was an adventure, to say the least. One competes with before-mentioned swarms of motorbikes, buses, trucks, and cars. Rules do exist and licenses are required, but...15,000 people die each years from motorbike accidents.
The guide pointed out an interesting sight along the way: stone graves in the middle of rice fields. People like to bury their parents in the fields they work, so they can keep an eye on them. How many people (all good Christians, I’m sure) even bother to visit parents’ graves? Vietnamese are clever and caring people. No wonder they won the war.
Life on the river is not unlike life on the klongs in Bangkok, only with more vegetation. My first thought, like I had on the Saigon River, was how easy it would be to conceal men with weapons and a burning desire to shoot at you. The urge to eliminate concealment led to the idiotic and inhumane use of Agent Orange. A few American lives might have been saved, but the cost to the civilian population was immeasurable.
Anyways, life on the river thrives, and people are friendly and seem content. Boats carry everything imaginable for local use or transport up the river to Cambodia, from individual fruits to fully stocked “shops”. Businesses open onto the water to offer goods or provide a view of toil inside. One seldom sees someone carving caskets in Europe, but I spotted two shops.
Come back next week for photos...
Prior to writing novels, the author enjoyed a multifaceted career: from decorated combat aviator to advertising professional to global communications director of a major consumer brand. He has traveled the world and met sports, film and television stars, political leaders, and royalty. He graduated from Middlebury College, is married, lives in Germany, and has two grown children.