Luca Fecarotta

LF

Photography

Mekong Delta

The Mekong River

The Mekong River

The Mekong River

The Mekong is the longest and most important river in South East Asia and one of the longest in the world. It runs through 6 different Countries ending in a vast delta in the South of Vietnam, The Mekong river drastically shaped the land and also the life of these Countries.

Along the river you can encounter many floating villages and floating markets. People try to exploit at their best these waters, from its energy to its food. For thousands of years, entire civilizations depended on this river and people learned to live in symbiosis with it.

 

Floating village

The Mekong delta is house for several floating villages. These small villages normally count only few hundreds of inhabitants. The houses are no more than huts and shacks built in a rather approximate way, on the waters of the Mekong River.

Hygiene and comfort are cut to the bone. Life might be not easy at all, but the pace is much slower and less stressful. The main source of food is certainly the rich waters of the river, so fish is definitely the main diet for everyone living here.

Most of people are fishermen who wake up very early in the morning spending most of the day searching for good fishing spots.

The river is exploited for anything, from fishing to any sort of daily chores. You can see people taking a bath, washing clothes or dishes, eating or cooking.

Unfortunately it's also used as toilet or dump.

People commute and do everything by boat. Here, there are no cars; no honking and no air pollution from the rather "old fashioned" exhaust pipes of old trucks or thousands of motorbikes stuck in the traffic. Perhaps people won't need to go around wearing pollution masks, but the contaminated waters from people littering or oil spilling, is a big issue that is threatening the health of the locals.

 

The Floating market

One of the most iconic fairs in the South of Vietnam are the floating markets. The floating market used to be the core of the Mekong delta economy, sustaining thousands of floating lives. 

For generations, local dealers have lived on houseboats, moving between fields and villages to collect and purchase farmers’ harvests before transferring them to the market through the intricate network of free-flowing waterways.

Due to a general push for progress and the government decision of building extensive river dikes and sluice gates to control the annual floods, things have radically changed.

 

Nowadays the role of these markets became more like a tourist attraction. The dimension and the importance of these fairs have drastically reduced and what we can see today is just a pale copy of what it used to be.

Although, floating markets remain an important part of the Mekong delta inhabitants' identity and culture.

Farmers gather early in the morning on boats and sampans, full of fruit and vegetables, flowers, and handicraft products, to trade their various goods. You can also find people (normally women) paddling through the market selling noodle soups or sandwiches (Banh Mi).

The boats have long sticks like poles with some vegetables or fruit tied on the top like a flag to indicate what is the merchant selling. The other boats or sampans will stop next to them to trade the respective goods (often passing them through small sort of portholes). 

 

It's true that it's  not as impressive and bustling like it used to be but the floating market still remain a very interesting daily event of the local people life.

The main floating market is in Can Tho and it's called Cai Rang.

40 minutes away from there there is a smaller one more local called Phong Dien.

The markets start around 4am and it can be visited by boat from Ninh Kieu dock.

Over the last decades, these fairs have become a great tourist attraction, therefore it's very easy to find daily tours or cheap private boats heading there.

It's still a very charming tradition that it's worth seeing.

 

Local life

The banks of the Mekong delta are filled of villages, towns and small cities. . The two major cities are Ho Chi Minh city and Can Tho. Except for the bustling capital of the South, HCMC, which is known for being very chaotic, life in the countryside flows languid and very calm.

People are pretty attached to their old traditions and values and are known for their welcoming friendliness.

Family is the center of everything, it's what counts the most for everyone. Every aspect of their life orbit around the family. This is explained also from fact that most of people conduct a very humble life, therefore every member of the family must have each other back, helping in times of needing.

You can see many elderly or even children helping at the vibrant local markets, or even walking through the streets selling any sort of goods.

People try to get by doing any sort of jobs often for just few pennies.

Being surrounded by water made fishing a very important part of people life, and fish the main diet for everyone living here. The river and all its waterways are also used for transferring goods, and resources  connecting all the small villages around the Mekong delta.

The local markets in Vietnam are always very lively and especially noisy.

There, most of the workers are women of all ages, sometimes even accompanied by their children.

Women are normally in charge for selling goods and men take often care of the transportation or loading trucks.

Often fruit, vegetables and fish travel through the waterways and then brought to the local markets by motorbikes or small trucks.

The peddler walks all around the city all day long carrying her goods on her shoulder and looking for customers.

There are always people on bicycles carrying huge bags which they fill picking up recyclable trash on the streets to sell for very little money to the companies.

Street restaurant and street food are extremely popular around this area. It's not the cleanest but it's very cheap and tasty.

All around the city you will always encounter people all of ages selling lottery tickets, from kids to elderly.

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All images and original Text © 2018 Luca Fecarotta