Exploring Vietnam’s Mekong Delta (GMA News Online)

(This feature was published in GMA News Online last August 19, 2012)

It was a predominant shade of ochre, and fringed with water lilies—I was up close with the wide river of the Mekong Delta.

Even though the sun was brightly shining, the sky blue and the air fresh, the Mekong river cruise was far from romantic. It had a more rustic appeal, highlighted by the evidence of livelihoods supported by this major waterway.

The Mekong Delta is a two-and-a-half hour bus journey from Ho Chi Minh City. We booked a day tour with other tourists from Asia and Europe. Like them, I looked forward to seeing Vietnam’s floating market with my own eyes.

Upon arrival at our destination, Cai Be, our group boarded a spacious motorboat and cruised along Vinh Long as we headed to the market area.

It was different from what I had pictured in my mind. I thought we would be navigating through numerous small boats filled with various produce. I wasn’t sure if it was because we arrived there late in the morning, but all we saw were houseboats with the produce displayed on top.

The boats were big enough to accommodate living quarters, and each sold a particular product — we saw pineapples, watermelons and sweet potatoes for sale. Our English-speaking tour guide, Mr. Nguyen (a common name in Vietnam), mentioned that the houseboats have addresses as well to identify what area they’re from.

Though I came prepared with my own eco-bag, we didn’t have a chance to go shopping in the floating market. Our guide said that the prices would be somewhat expensive as the people there knew that we were tourists.

So, instead of shopping, we just enjoyed sights. Along the way, Mr. Nguyen pointed out the different “san” houses or houses on stilts lining the river’s edge.

After a while, we stopped and got off the boat to explore the countryside.

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