The Mekong Delta conjures up memories of the Florida everglades with its lush green scenery and milk tea colored rivers. It is immediately apparent of the divide from Ho Chi Minh and the Mekong region upon crossing the river. Shops seem to slow down and life seems to go slower. The road isn’t quite as good which forces the bus to slow down and you can almost feel your heart rate slow.
As we ascend farther into the region the greenness almost envelops you as you slowly mesh into this fertile yet unforgiving landscape. As we arrive in the Giong Trom region we turn off the main road onto a dirt road towards our final destination a small village called Ben Tra. This side road filled with dirt, pot holes, and bridges we barely fit over was filled with Mango, banana, and coconut trees to show just how fertile this land can be.
As we disembark and start on foot into the village we’re immediately greeted by all the 4 legged friends who protect the village and bark at us giving approval to proceed. Upon walking on the dirt path a small river is flowing next too us as if leading the way deeper and you can only imagine this looked the same for thousands of years. The houses are surprisingly modern with cement floor structures and polished wooden exteriors that are overtaken by plants which gives the appearance of the jungle approving the structures and putting its mark on everything. The palm trees are low hanging and all kinds of exotic fruit I have never seen before hangs at eye distance for the picking. We try green lime looking like oranges, and sour fruits with a unique taste all of its own. You immediately feel as though you have stepped into a sauna as the sweat opens your pours and the sounds around you are loud of insects communicating that are all foreign to my ears.
I ask the future brother in law of one of the tribesman about how they survive in this land and he explains the culture of the Mekong region. Christoph is French and moved to Vietnam to teach and met his future wife while she was trying to practice her English. He is due to get married in the fall of 2014 with a small gathering of over 500 of their closest friends. Then he starts to explain the culture of the Mekong Delta which to begin with is they are very laid back people. Due to the ease of growing crops and feeding ones self off the land there is little to worry about. If you are thirsty you simply go in the backyard and crack open a coconut and enjoy the juice. If you want some mangoes you go and pick them. If you want some shrimp you can head to the river and fish for them. This is very apparent as we arrive in our hosts house. We immediately crack open some coconuts and sip the sweet juice from its nectar and eat the inner fruit with a spoon. We get a quick tour of the farm and are shown the ducks, the water purifying station, and some bee hives wear you can get honey.
Later we went fishing as well to catch our dinner of prawn as big as a foot-long hot dog at the ballpark. Some of the girls in the group chose not to jump into the murky water in search of these prawns as it was a little daunting to be covered in this mud slipping your hand in holes hoping to catch some of these squirming seafood. The host immediately shows his talents catching 4-5 right away and I soon get a technique to look for there long antennas poking out and reach down quick trying not to get pinched. I get the hang of it and contribute 4-5 for our lunch. It is a great source of accomplishment to supply our lunch and realize every fruit we eat is locally picked by us.
I slowly start to sink into our trip and this region shows just how great life can be if you have food to put on the table and family around to celebrate with. I immediately feel at home and can understand why Christoph uses this as an escape from the hustle of Saigon. Life is good when you feast like we did and enjoy good company. This is the beginning of our journey into an exotic land and a great place to contemplate what adventures lie ahead.