SEVENSEAS Marine Conservation & Travel Issue 14, July 2016 | Page 34

Wish You Were Here

24-Hours in the Mekong Delta, Vietnam

he bustling streets of Saigon are like a living organism – connected via a central hub, with its different parts moving in unison, yet seemingly disconnected. The beat of the city is palpable, but close by lies the mouth of the Mekong River and Delta, and its serene and slower pulse.

The only way to truly experience the Mekong is to get on it, and submerse yourself in the tales of old, of sea

monsters and boat people, and of war and peace. From high-end, private sampan voyages to a night on a converted rice-barge to a rowboat, there are endless possibilities to choose for your voyage.

So began my 24-hours on the Mekong, tucked into Le Cochinchine’s beautiful 4-cabin, luxurious rice-barge. To some travelers, the waters seem dirty, ruddy and lack appeal – but to me, they hid secrets beneath the opaque surface. The tour company Le Cochinchine, offers an authentic experience with a mixture of history, geography, ecology, culture and culinary delights.

On the boat we learned how to make fresh spring rolls and shared recipes over Mekong sake (80 proof “wine”). Off the boat, we rode bicycles through villages, gardens and markets to get a glimpse into Mekong life. Even during downpours the rain did not deter our experience. The huge raindrops sounded like croaking frogs when they hit the dense river, with the blurred lights from shore and other boats as a magical backdrop.

The Mekong River is the main artery of Southeast Asia. It begins in the Tibetan plateaus, runs through China, Burma, Laos, Thailand, and Cambodia to southeastern Vietnam – where it empties into the South China Sea via a dendritic tributary network. The lower Mekong is home to over 50 million people, with at least 4000 years of recorded history.

Photos and Story by Carolyn Sotka