Binh Tanh Island and Cai Be Floating Market
Today was a day for exploring the waterways of the Mekong Delta in depth. We began our visit by small boat, transiting narrow (and shallow) channels of the Delta. We arrived to Binh Tanh Island and to a small village there. This village is sustained mostly through an extensive mat-making industry, as well as some small-scale fish farms around the perimeter.
Wandering around the village, we enjoyed a slice of small-town, Vietnamese life. The village and homes in this country are strikingly different to those we have become accustomed to seeing in Cambodia. Tidy courtyards, tile-covered facades, and potted plants seem to define many of the homes we pass. Our groups split into two to visit the local school, the local temple, and to view the intricate process of creating the mats. Mat-making is a task done predominantly by the women of the village, who spend hours every day perched on tiny benches over the mat materials. Woven with an improvised hand-loom, the materials are raised on a platform just above the ground.
We also met two local elders, who spoke about their life on the island and how they were personally affected by the war in the 1960’s and 1970’s. Even with a turbulent past, the town is very friendly and people are quick to wave and smile when approached by newcomers.
After a cruise along the narrow channels of the island and multitudes of small fish farming operations, we returned to Jahan for lunch and a short disembarkation briefing. As our vessel repositioned for the afternoon, we each took some time to pack and prepare for the next leg of our journey. We met our small, wooden sampans again for the afternoon and cruised toward the commercial center of Cai Be. Cai Be is best known for its floating market, which boasts all manners of fruits and vegetables available for wholesale purchases. Our groups disembarked to visit a rice paper and coconut candy-making factory—a small operation that is family owned. We tasted and sampled many of the delicacies available, including some braver souls who sampled the local rice wine—a strongly fermented treat.
Our last afternoon brought a leisurely cruise along the channels and canals of the delta, moving between local industries such as brickmaking and fish processing, and ending with a more pastoral landscape of cultivated fruits and vegetables.
The wonderful crew of the Jahan ended our time onboard with an introduction to the entire ship’s complement, a Cambodian dance party on deck, Baked Alaska for dessert, and a photo slideshow of each of us throughout our time onboard. It was a wonderful surprise to remember all of the adventures we’ve had together in our time in Southeast Asia. Our journey continues on to Saigon tomorrow, but we are leaving with fantastic memories of the people of this region, who have made us feel so welcome during our time together.