Exploring the Mekong Delta

We are crossing the southernmost tip of Vietnam where the great Mekong river splits into nine major channels flowing out to the ocean.  We stopped in the city of Cần Thơ to charter a small boat for a four hour tour of a floating market, a noodle factory and the winding backwaters of the Mekong Delta.  This part of the world is covered in rich rice fields, growing 38% of Vietnam’s rice production.  While Vietnam has consistently been on of the top rice exporting countries, this year, with the severe flooding in Thailand, it is expected to be the number one rice exporter at 7 million tons.  Needless to say, the Mekong plays a large part in rice production and all other aspects of life.  The floating markets are where wholesellers come from further upriver to sell fruits and vegetables to resellers in the local markets.  These large boats are packed dangerously full of produce and generally lie very low in the water.  They start their sales early in the morning and eat breakfast right on the river.  Many smaller boats go between selling soup, fresh coffee, tea, pasteries and other refreshments.  We started our tour at 5:30am to see the sunrise and had a breakfast of noddle soup and coffee in our small boat.  From the market, we travelled up a narrow channel to see where the noodle for our soup were made.  We were taken through a small production factory with no more than ten employees.  Everything was made by hand; the rice is soaked then made into a thin batter which is cooked into a translucent rice crepe.  These a placed on bamboo planks and left out in the sun to partially dry before being sliced into noodles.  We then were taken through a series of smaller channels that slowly made their way back into the city.

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