Delta is the bottom half of Vietnam's two rice
baskets, the other being the Red River Delta in the
North . This vast delta is formed by the deposition of
the multiple tentacles and tributaries of the mighty
Mekong River which has its origin in the Tibetan
highland plateau 2,800 miles away. From its source,
the river makes its way through China, Myanmar
(Burma), Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam before
flowing out into the South China Sea. The Mekong's
Vietnamese name, Cuu Long, means Nine Dragons for the
nine mouths that terminate the flow of this great
river as it is absorbed by the sea.
The people of south Vietnam are often very proud of
the richness and vastness of this land. When referring
to the rice fields in this area, they often say, "co
bay thang canh", meaning the land is so large that the
cranes can stretch their wings as they fly. Today, the
region is one of Vietnam's highest producer of rice
crops, vegetables and fruits.
Life On The
Delta was an ancient Khmer territory. The area was
mostly marshland and forest. When the Nguyen Lords
took control of this region, a series of canals were
built and a system of transportation was implemented
in the maze of water ways in the area.
Delta is divided into 9 provinces: Long An, Tien Giang,
Ben Tre, Dong Thap, An Giang, Vinh Long, Kien Giang,
Hau Giang and Minh Hai. The people in this region are
made up of Vietnamese and some people of Khmer,
Chinese and Cham origin. This accounts for the variety
of religions that add to the cultural diversity of
this area. Among the religions practiced here are:
Buddhism, Catholicism, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and Islam.
southwest region of Vietnam is known for the vast rice
fields and the huge plantations that make up the core
of this region's economy. The region is also known for
the many miles of waterways criss-crossing the land
making this area both fertile and unique
majority of Vietnam's fruits come from the many
orchards of the Mekong Delta. On any given season, one
can find a variety of tropical fruits that are
produced by farmers of this region in the markets of
Saigon, Hue, and Ha Noi.
tropical fruits, the season is very short because they
cannot be picked green and they don't last long in
storage where they quickly loose their aroma. The
greatest variety of fruits is available during the
raining season, from June to September in the South.
are picked, the fruits are transported on small boats
to floating markets where they are sold to wholesale
dealers. In the off-season, many orchards become
flower nurseries to meet the peak demand for flowers
during the new year celebration in the big cities.
orchards are divided by a myriad of small irrigation
canals with delicate bamboo bridges called "Cau Khi"
or monkey bridges crossing them.
Life On The
living in the Mekong Delta make their living as
farmers and fishermen. Often, they live right on the
edge of the rivers or canals on various structures
built from whatever materials found. Consequently, the
architecture along the delta varies from place to
homes have fisheries right under them. Enterprising
individuals build a cage like structure of bamboo
beneath their homes on these waterways to house
fishes. As the fishes grew, they sell the whole batch
to processors from the city and start with new ones.
Life in the
delta is tightly woven with its rivers as daily
activities and businesses are conducted on its banks.
Markets, stores, ship yards, repair shops are some of
the more popular trades.
markets are held every morning from 5:00 to about
11:00. Phung Hiep market is the biggest since it is
located at the intersection of 7 major canals. It is
also a photographer's delight because it can be seen
above from a bridge. Cai Rang and Phong Dien are two
other notable floating markets in the delta.
loaded with produce from nearby orchards of the Mekong
Delta converge to the floating market. They carry
mostly fruits but also coconuts, vegetables and
local traders with bigger boats snapping everything by
the bushels and resell at local markets or to
wholesale dealers from big cities, often for a
floating markets are not complete without its floating
restaurants, floating gas stations and an occasional
tour boat filled with tourists.
unique industry in this region is the snake farm in
the area of My Tho township. In 1977, Lt. Colonel Tran
Van Duoc (Tu Duoc), a reptile enthusiast, created Dong
Nam Snake Farm. Initially created strictly as a
research site for medicinal uses of reptile venom,
Dong Nam Snake Farm today is the largest of its kind
in Vietnam. The farm boasts 20 different varieties of
venomous snakes and is home to other species such as
often soaked along with herbs in large flasks of
whisky which can be bought in the snake market in
Phung Hiep. This potent drink reportedly will increase
your libido as well as cure all sorts of illnesses.
Live snakes are also for sale in the market and are
exported to other Asian countries to be used as food
typical snake full-course meal, the gallbladder is
extracted from the freshly-killed snake and together
with some blood and whisky a drink is made. The snake
is then chopped off and cooked in various ways. Most
tourists opt for a curry stir-fried snake dish just
for the thrill of it. General comments are "too much
bone and no taste!". More adventurous travelers have
reported severe stomach cramps after swallowing down
the snake drink.
Cities Of The Delta
Can Tho is
170 km from Saigon. Since the beginning, Can Tho was
already given the title Tay Do or Western Capital. It
is also the meeting point of the various waterways of
the Mekong Delta. Today, it has become an industrious
city with big bottling companies and fish sauce
factories. It is is home to 220,000 inhabitants
Can Tho is
a busy port capable of accomodating large ships from
neighbouring countries. Hau Giang or Hau River is the
main channel that passes through Can Tho. The land
mass surrounding the river was developed very early so
the population in this area is probably the largest in
all of the Delta region. The land here is said to be
the most fertile because of the deposits from the
various branches of the river.
Kieu is probably the most well known landmark in Can
Tho. The port lies on Hau Giang and crosses the city
of Can Tho. The city opens to the water front where
port Ninh Kieu is the focal point of all activities on
the river. Frequent ferries carry passengers to Xom
Chai island, just a short distance away and a
beautiful sight at sunset.
capital of An Giang province, Long Xuyen plays a very
important role in the commerce of this region. Many of
the produce grown in the vicinity are shipped here
before being transported elsewhere. With a population
over 100,000 people, it has a significant number of
catholics as the city boasts the largest Catholic
church in the region, seating up to 1000 people.
is a big town with slow pace living. Unlike its
motorized cousin in Can Tho, "Xe Loi" here is pulled
by bicycle. 40 km from Long Xuyen is the hilly area of
Ba The where the ruins of the Oc Eo civilization
dating back to the first century A.D. were discovered.
The Oc Eo civilization reached its height in the 5th
century and was part of the foundation of the Phu Nam
Sa Dec used
to be the capital of Dong Thap province, formerly
inhabited by the ancient Phu Nam Kingdom and later the
Chan Lap (Tchen La) civilization. In the 1700s, the
area was exchanged with the Vietnamese for military
aid. Since then many Vietnamese have settled in this
area and effectively annexed this whole area. The Chan
Lap were subsequently wiped out and assimilated by the
Vietnamese and today the population consists mostly
people of Chinese, Khmer, Cham and Thai origin.
Sa Dec has
become less and less prosperous ever since Cao Lanh
was named capital of the province to reward communist
cadres from the area after the war ended. New
constructions and developments are now occuring in Cao
Lanh, the commercial hub of the region.
Chau Doc is
the last town in Vietnam before entering Cambodia. The
town is located on the right bank of Hau Giang, 5 km
away from Sam mountain, the highest point on the
Delta. This mountain gets the name from its shape of a
king crab, which is "sam" in vietnamese. It is a
sacred mountain for many locals since it is dotted
with pagodas and temples. Chau Doc is very famous for
"ma('m", a type of fermented fish used regularly as
food ingredients or garnishes.
population of 85,000, Chau Doc is a bustling city with
heavy trade of illegal goods crossing the cambodian
border. From smugglers on bicycle carrying cartons of
cigarettes on their back to boats loaded with VCR and
TV sets to new cars originating from Thailand, it
seems like anything is fair game in the wild west of