On Wednesday May 27, Bruce and I headed out to the Mekong Delta area south of Ho Chi Minh City, a major tourist destination for Saigon visitors and of course a major agricultural zone of Vietnam as well, with rice production being central but by no means exclusive.
First, tourist production: we saw these (um, doubtfully legal) vials of snake (and here scorpion) wine throughout the region.
And I saw signs of tropical forests past: here in a rest area were slabs of such proportions I could only imagine the tree they came from.
We stopped en route to a rice production factory, which handled everything from the unloading of bags packed from the fields…
…to milling/polishing and packing of the final product for shipment. Very instructive for a novice like me: e.g., breakage proportions must be extremely low to be exported to Japan (if they'd take it at all), though the highest breakage is sold to: Africa.
We arrived in Can Tho, the largest city in the Mekong (~1 million), for lunch and visits to nearby markets…food always the enticing commodity (along with nature) to present to the tourist.
One vegetable and meat market.
Vietnam has more fruit than you can remember, all of which have many varietals. Dragon fruit (the red one with green fronds) toward bottom left is the stuff of marketing ads.
Of course there is rice, of many different levels of quality.
And lots of fish (and other products of the delta), dried and fresh.
Now the slightly exotic: this particular meat is rat (who could tell?)…
…and this one is, obviously, python.
Oh yeh, water birds for sale along the road (illegally, but not threatened apparently).
We stayed in the Asia Hotel in Can Tho for the night…
…and got out later to sample the night life of the area.
On Thursday we drove 40 km south of Can Tho to the Hoa An Biodiversity Center, run in conjunction with Can Tho University. Hoa An has a variety of research projects in wetland ecology, rural rice production and development, and related areas.
We toured the Center with students from Towson University in Baltimore who were visiting Vietnam. Here we're in the biodiversity reserve area, with a focus on revegetating the once-depleted lands (the Center happened to have been a U.S. military base at one point).
Here we are eating lunch at the Center along with our Towson friends.
The Delta area is rural but generally developed in terms of basic road and electricity infrastructure. There are of course the ubiquitous signs with educational messages for local citizens…
…but it is not a government that has abandoned the rural areas, down to constructing bridges for pedestrians and motorcycles to cross the many canals to their homes.
Aquaculture is another major industry here.
Now we're heading up north of Can Tho to the city of Vinh Long; here is a typical village along the way.
In Vinh Long we finally found live snakes for sale…
…and a terribly squealing young pig having been wrestled into a plastic bag for dinner, with only the snout exposed. From Vinh Long we got on a boat to explore the Delta; I'll reserve our boat trip for the next slide show.