Martha describes our day spent on the river:
A lifetime that passed in the blink of an eye, our tour of the Mekong Delta was one of the most magical experiences of our time in Vietnam. In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, we boarded two small boats and set out into the dark expanse of water flanked by city lights hundreds of feet high on either side of the Bassac River (Song Hau in Vietnamese), one of the primary tributaries of the Mekong. The cool morning air quickly gave way to a balmy breeze that swirled all around us like a dewy blanket, leaving any exposed skin with a sticky sheen. The world, not yet touched by the sun, seemed still and peaceful, even amidst the throngs of traffic on the bridges overhead. The only sound we could hear was the hum of the motor and the high pitched chirping of bats. Looking around, one hand dipped into the warm river, I remember feeling tremendous gratitude for this once in a lifetime opportunity.
The sky lightened slowly, then all at once as if a light had been flipped, the stars giving way to the rising sun. To the left, the morning. To the right, peaceful night. And somewhere in between both Jupiter and Venus shone brightly above. First purple, then blue and pink, if you looked away for even a second you would miss the changes in the sky. As the sun rose, we approached the first floating market. I did not know what to expect, but to see a cluster of boats all hooked together in strange archipelagos across the river was a wonderful surprise. People passed bowls of soup, fruit, and money over railings as tradesmen and women steered the motors with their feet between boats brimming with fresh produce.
Our guide was named Yo, and he took us to his favorite place for food, a young woman who served pho from one of the smallest boats I’ve seen. It was probably my favorite meal thus far, packed with flavor and presented more beautifully than any food featured in a magazine.
With food in our bellies and light in the sky, we continued upriver. With the sun came the ability to see all the trash in the river, mainly coconuts and wilted greens, but also a lot of plastic that repeatedly tangled our propellor. Bunches of water hyacinth floated down the river as did a multitude of boats, some full of tourists, some selling additional goods, others fishing or transporting dirt or rock.
In our group, a lot of fruit was consumed that beautiful day on the river: milk fruit, mangoes, melons, bananas, rambutan, and more! The delicious juices dripped down faces and fingers; the most ridiculous grins were highlighted by the remains of fruit.
On three occasions our boat dropped us off on land: twice for the restroom, and once because our weight was too much for the shallow water. Each of these brief journeys ashore gave us insight into how people live in this flood-prone delta. And every twist and turn inevitably brought more children running outside to yell, “Hello, what is your name?”
Overall, the trip was a dream come true, a dream I never knew I had and never want to forget. The natural beauty of Vietnam is so spectacular. It is only rivaled by the kindness of the people we encounter everywhere we go. I cannot wait to return.