On our fourth day here in Vietnam, we packed up our bags and left Ho Chi Minh City behind us, looking forward to spending some time in the Mekong Delta. Upon reaching the city limits, the urban jungle transitioned into rural farmland. For a while, it was hard to distinguish the landscape of Vietnam from that of Iowa! We arrived at a decrepit pier in a modest town. Despite the questionable structural integrity of the pier, our group made it safely onto the boat that was destined to shuttle us over to an island where we would be spending the rest of the day and night. Due to the low tide, our boat ride was extended an extra hour, allowing us to experience the town from the water. The air was refreshingly cool and peaceful compared to the noise and movement of the city; a change that was universally appreciated. Once we arrived at the island we enjoyed a five-course meal of fried elephant fish in which we rolled into our spring rolls to the best of our abilities.
Farms in Vietnam are vastly different from those seen in Iowa; Farms are generally no more than a couple acres, and farm machines are seldom used. After settling into our farm house, we were summoned back to the boat in which we took a short trip across a channel to have us clamber into long shallow canoe-like boats. We fit four to a boat and had a guide paddling for us in the back. They handed us the iconic straw rice hats that intensified the experience of us traversing the narrow, lead covered channels in the river in Vietnam. Jungle bush alienated us from the rest of the world, and the journey was quite peaceful as we passed by various Vietnamese homes dispersed in the foliage.
After the relaxing boat tour, we changed pace and found ourselves biking around the island. The island was essentially a circle with one paved road encircling the island. The bike trip was an excellent workout that left us with aching posteriors due to the condition of the road. The night ended with a live performance of a Vietnamese Opera by a group of locals. They were talented musicians and singers and we quickly fell asleep afterward amongst the barking of the wild dogs.
In the morning, we were able to tour two local factories. The first converted rice into delicious snacks. While there, our group made a new best friend! The second factory was a clay-working facility. We experienced every level of production, and we were able to examine and contrast the working conditions faced in Vietnam with those of the United States. They also had kilns that dwarfed the ones we remembered using in art class!
The road ahead looks bright as we continue this adventure of a lifetime. It was truly a humbling and unforgettable experience.