We have cruised past all manner of rice fields, vegetable crops, orchards, and plantations over the last few days, and we have an appreciation for the productivity of the Mekong Delta. Located at the extreme southern end of the Indochina Peninsula, this region is Vietnam’s rice bowl. With annual exports of rice exceeding three billion USD and seafood at almost nine billion, the delta’s agricultural and aquaculture sectors make up the lion’s share of the country’s food exports. Rice mills and fish processing plants prepare these exports, which we have encountered frequently during our expedition. Today we had the opportunity to visit one of the many farming villages that line the riverbanks. Binh Tanh Island is home to several thousand farmers, and we had the chance to meet some of the community elders who lived through the Vietnam War. They told incredible stories of loss and the hardships they endured; despite this, they are happy and optimistic about the future.
In the afternoon, we boarded the sampans once again and cruised into Cai Be, a medium-sized city in the Tien Giang province located in the Mekong Delta. We observed numerous heavily-loaded barges transporting various cargo up and down the river – great heaps of sediment, bales of hay, and bags of fish food. We passed through the city’s main canal and saw that the foreshore is a work in progress with a new concrete road and a sidewalk under construction. The small, family-run workshop we visited specializes in various rice and coconut-based products, and we sampled delightful, freshly made coconut candies flavored with palm sugar. We have enjoyed fresh spring rolls throughout the trip, and we can now appreciate the delicate art of making the rice paper that envelops them. Freshly cooked pop-rice snacks are another tasty treat, and it’s all washed down with a shot of rice whiskey. Yo!
In the evening, back on the Jahan, we had a final farewell for the ship’s crew and hospitality staff. We enjoyed another round of music and some dancing to golden oldies and a few regional tunes.