Mekong Enterprises


This blog entry about the events of Sunday, December 19, 2004 was originally posted on December 23, 2004.

DAY 428:  The Mekong, one the world’s great rivers, touches six countries — Tibetan China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam — and has provided prosperity for those places in terms of trade and agriculture for centuries, as most rivers do.  If you recall from your geography classes in grammar school, rivers usually spill out into a larger body of water, and the place where they meet is called a delta.  Deltas provide a wealth of opportunity for business; they are “showcases” if you will, of the labor and services of the river within.  Such is the case with the Mekong Delta at the South China Sea.

I opted for a one-day tour to see “life” of the Mekong Delta and was put into a small group of Canadians, Hong Kongers, a Thai, an Australian and an American.  We were led by a guide named Khai, who was a friendly Vietnamese man that taught himself English so that he could make a profit from Mekong Delta tours.  He told us, in one of many short but sweet lectures, that Vietnam is Asia’s second fastest growing economy after juggernaut China, with tourism as a big factor in the boom of course.  He argued that it’s because Vietnam is safer than the other destinations in southeast Asia, with the kidnappings in the Philippines, the violence in Indonesia and the imminent threat of terrorism in Thailand.

“[Vietnam, no problem.  It’s cheap.  Tourists come here and drink lots of beer,]” he said (to the best of my memory).  “After the second war in Europe, Europe’s economy grew.  Now it’s Asia’s turn.”

Vietnam is on the rebound from its time as a war-torn nation, and it shows.  Construction is up, farmers grow rice surpluses to export to other countries, and even American Airlines had recently started a direct route between California and Hanoi.  On a local scale, goods are sold to tourists with time on their hands, in many stalls as we saw that day on tour. 

From the main port town of My Tho, our group was taken by boat to three islands in the delta, each a contributor to the local economy in its own way.  Our first stop was Tortoise Island, home of handmade coconut candy factories.  We toured one of course, so we could see how the candy was made — and to pump money into the economy if we chose.  Khai was an obviously good saleman because I don’t think anyone went away empty-handed.

VILLAGE KIDS AND GUYS ON MOTORBIKES GREETED US as our group rode on the back of motorcycle tractors through the island villages to our next site of opportunity to pump money into the economy, a honey farm where one could buy honey or candies they made from ginger and coconuts.  There were a couple of snakes in a cage — two of the biggest pythons I’ve ever seen — which were not only available for tourists to take photos with, but were grown and fattened for snake leather products.  I swear one of them was so big from all that it was being fed.  It must have eaten something big recently because in its throat region there was a lump the size of a Perdue Oven Stuffer Roaster.

A woman rowed us in a small canoe through a 350-year old canal (picture above), wisely created as a navigation route within the delta so one didn’t have to fight the current as much.  It was a casually fine cruise for about twenty minutes, until we hopped back on the big boat and sailed to Phoenix Island to pump more money into the Vietnamese GNP.  Lunch was included on the tour — the food that is; profits came in the drinks we had to buy on our own.  We were allotted much more time than needed for lunch on the island, which was probably all a part of the strategy; nearby were vendors selling goods while people simply waited around for their boats to leave again.

The same was the case on Unicorn Island, where we went to sample local fruits and listen to local music performed by musicians and singers.  There was a good half hour of “free time,” where there was nothing to do but browse the vendors of handicrafts and textiles.

WE CRUISED PASSED PROFITABLE FISHING BOATS and arrived back on the mainland, we were driven to two more sites of interest:  the Vinh Trang Pagoda with “the most beautiful architecture in Vietnam,” a sacred place of monks and gardens surrounded by profit-hungry vending stands; and the local Bonsai Garden, which had more caged monkeys than actual bonsai trees.  Not surprisingly, we had more than enough time in both, so that we’d have time to contribute to the Vietnamese GNP. 

In the end, it was a quite relaxed look into Mekong Delta “life,” and by that I mean “business.”  The Delta may have provided wealth in the past and I saw that it will continue to do so, especially if Mekong Delta tours continue.  I’m sure if the great rivers of world merged together into some sort of big conglomerate, the shareholders would be kept happy.

Next entry: M.M.B.B. (the Many Meetings Back in Bangkok)

Previous entry: Blame America

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Comments for “Mekong Enterprises”

  • I’d like to start off by saying… I could be still in bed right now. A snow storm pownded Toronto lastnight and I got an email at 8:02am saying I didn’t have to come in to the Cube Farm today. I leave home at 6:30.

    Anyways… Now that I’ve vented… The Mekong Delta looks beautiful and despite its focus on the GNP it has moved up on my “to go” list.

    Wicked pics as usuall Erik. (I don’t think anyone has said that for a while.)

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/22  at  02:32 PM

  • Td0t:  At least you can surf all day without anybody looking over your shoulder.

    We also got hammered.  I can’t even get out of my drive.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/22  at  05:03 PM

  • Erik: Khai pic is 404.

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/22  at  05:16 PM

  • Khai pic is up…

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  12/25  at  08:27 PM

  • Beautiful pics & people. You sounded a bit jaded by the continual exposure to the wares for sale. I hope you’re not. This stuff didn’t look nearly as cheesy as some other places you’ve been.  It also didn’t seem so pushy. I recall a tour that took you on a “rug factory tour”... now that was ridiculous!

    Posted by .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)  on  01/02  at  09:21 PM

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This blog post is one of over 500 travel dispatches from the trip blog, "The Global Trip 2004: Sixteen Months Around The World (Or Until Money Runs Out, Whichever Comes First)," originally hosted by It chronicled a trip around the world from October 2003 to March 2005, which encompassed travel through thirty-seven countries in North America, South America, Africa, Europe, and Asia. It was this blog that "started it all," where Erik evolved and honed his style of travel blogging — it starts to come into focus around the time he arrives in Africa.

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Next entry:
M.M.B.B. (the Many Meetings Back in Bangkok)

Previous entry:
Blame America


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