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Saturday, September 11, 2010

Mekong Delta

Last weekend, Bill and I took a 50 mile bike trip through a part of the Mekong Delta. We were lucky enough to have an English and Vietnamese speaking guide named Van. Van was amazing!!! He knew everything there was to know about the Mekong Delta. It helped that he is originally from the area.

Oh...the Mekong Delta. What an AMAZING place. The landscape and the people were incredibly beautiful! The people were SO friendly. The food was SO yummy. We had an amazing time.

We started the trip in Saigon. It took about an hour and a half to get there. Once we arrived, we got right on our bikes and started peddling. As we rode past houses, the local people would run out saying, "HELLO! What is your name?!" They were SO excited to see Westerners! The especially loved my white skin and blond hair. When we would stop, they would ask us 4 questions: What is your name? How old are you (and they always guessed us to be younger)? Where are you from? Where are you going? They were so curious. They would blush if I said hello back or if we smiled at them. Many of the older teenagers and young adults were too shy to say hello, although they told our guide that they wanted to talk with us. One girl rode her bike closely behind me just to look at my hair. I stopped to say hello and all she could do was giggle! They were so endearing!

As we were peddling, we stopped at a cashew processing factory. It was very interesting to see just how much goes into processing a cashew. No wonder they are so expensive! The workers were so happy to see us and would giggle and laugh when we would take their picture. See the photos below:






This little boy is the son of the workers. He was so excited to have his picture taken.

As we were leaving the cashew factory, we ran into a group of lovely teenagers. Word had spread that we were there and they were anxious to check us out. They were so sweet. One of the girls was very fascinated with me and invited me back to her home. I just could not say no, so we headed over to her home. The houses in the Mekong vary from huts with palm leaf roofs to concrete homes that are open (very little furniture). Her house was concrete. She and her mother invited us in and offered us water. We couldn't drink it because it's not safe for our Western bellies. We sat and talked (the best that we could). They asked us the 4 questions and just sat and smiled at us. They thought we were so fascinating. I was incredibly humbled by the experience. They would say things like, "You are so beautiful" or "You are so handsome". Women would come up to me and compare their skin color with mine. It is considered very beautiful and exotic to have blond hair and pale skin. The women wear long sleeved shirts and gloves to keep their skin hidden from the sun. One woman even asked me why I would not cover my delicate white skin. I thought, "Because it's REALLY HOT AND HUMID here!" But, I just smiled. Below are some photos of the teenager and her friends who invited us into their home. Seriously, they made my heart smile. :)


They love giving the peace sign. Sometimes they would just see us and flash the peace sign. And, they mean it. They really are very peaceful.


The girl who invited us into her home is behind the little boy.

I really can not say enough about how amazing the people were. They are genuine and sincere. They are hard working, but do not complain. They are peaceful and loving. They are kind and generous. I was overwhelmed by their kindness. Some people would ride up to us and say, "Hello. Welcome to Vietnam." And, then of course they'd ask us the 4 questions. :) Most were so happy to practice their English. And, once they found out we were American, they were even more excited. I'm not quite sure why they are so in love with Americans, but they are. They practically jump for joy when they find out.


After we stopped at the house and rode for several miles, we stopped at a local market for a break. We had fresh lychee fruit. SO delicious. Below are photos from our stop:








After our break, we had the opportunity to stop by a factory where they make hats for the school children. They are handmade and the dyes they use are from local trees and plants. Below you will see photos from this stop:










In the Mekong, they bury their dead in tombs like the one above. You see them throughout the Mekong on farms and in backyards.



We stopped again to have some fruit but noticed that there were two women weaving mats, baskets and bags out of palm leaves. Van, our guide, asked if we could watch. They were very gracious and invited us to watch them at work. It takes them two days to make a large bag and mat. You can see the photos below:






For the rest of the blog, I'm just going to post pictures, a video and captions. It's really hard to describe, and I think the pictures do it more justice. Before I do, I wanted to mention where we stayed Saturday evening. We actually stayed in a local's home! They owned a large nursery, so we were surrounded by fruit trees, plants and flowers. It was amazing! They cooked the most unbelievable dinner and breakfast: fresh fish, fruit, veggies, spring rolls, rice, noodles, bread, eggs, fruit, fruit and more fruit. It was amazing!! Right outside our room was a very large gecko. Throughout the night it would make a loud noise and it kinda freaked me out! But, they don't harm humans and are actually pretty afraid of us. We slept under mosquito netting which was kind of neat! Anyway, enjoy the rest of the pictures:


Our guide, Van "The Man":


Missy enjoying the ride. If you look carefully you can see a
local's home (made out of palm leaves) behind me.


I love how green everything is!


We were on a bridge and thought this was a neat shot. This is
how I pictured Vietnam.


Another shot from the bridge:


We were waiting for a ferry to pick us up and take us across
the river.


Bill took this amazing shot. The sky was so beautiful that day!


People fishing on the river.


Farmers working hard to take care of their crops. On the
left hand side, you can see a tomb.


Locals fishing in the river:



We had to ride a ferry to get to the other side of the river.
It was pretty neat!
video

I can not say enough about the Mekong Delta. It was an amazing experience. I will never forget for as long as I live. If you are planning on coming to see us, plan on this trip. You will not regret it!

We miss everyone very much and hope all is well. Please remember to keep in touch!

Love,
Missy and Bill :)