The Mekong Delta looks like a giant has stuck his hands into the rich alluvial sands and scraped a series of deep trenches running towards the sea. The river system, for by this point it is no longer a single river, is absolutely huge – is made up of great wide swathes of brown water. Overloaded boats chug, and they all do chug, along filled with sand, wood, and assorted other goods.
We rode over many bridges today and caught several ferries. The bridges are all little hump-backed affairs with small, bicycle-bumping lips at the beginning and end. The ferries are clearly the life-blood of the area, they are practical, functional, chugging beasts.
Near most of the ferry ramps there are small clusters of industry. We visited a sawmill where they take logs in and cut them into planks and then in the rest of the workshop create beds and chairs and stools. At another stop we watched a husband and wife blacksmithing team in action. The forge was a small concrete plinth with a pile of charcoal on it. The smith would insert the metal into the heart of the embers and use a palm tree whisk to wet the outside of the pile. Once the metal was red-hot he’d withdraw it and put it on a little cylindrical anvil. Then he and his wife would start hitting it, all without exchanging a single world.
Our third industry was brick making. Huge bee-hive kilns use rice husks to fire bricks enormous piles of bricks. The remaining burnt charcoal is used as fertiliser in the fields – a use of every single item that is pretty typical. The single, terrifying thread joining all these industries from Western eyes was the complete lack of safety equipment of any sort.
This part of Vietnam is known as the food bowl, it produces much of the country’s food. Perhaps because of this the fields are much larger than further North, and we even saw a sort of tractor in action. Our day’s riding, again about 60km, jumped between riding along tiny pathways beside canals and riding through these large fields.
Our final ferry trip for the day, took us out to an island where we stayed in a family’s house. It’s a lovely house, with rammed earth floors and basic sleeping platforms. Although quite basic it was very comfortable. The kids had a fabulous time playing hide-and-seek, while the adults enjoyed yet another tasty meal.