Feb 08, 2018 - The Jahan
We began the day bright and early before sunrise. Jahan had spent the night just downstream from Chau Doc, a small but bustling city near the border with Cambodia. Since we crossed into Vietnam activity along the river has increased noticeably, and the waterways of Chau Doc are busy with barges and lined with floating houses. For our morning excursion we board local boats and proceed along the channel to see the daily flotilla that is the floating wholesale market. The larger vessels have brought fresh produce in from farms in the nearby region, while the smaller boats are operated by local middle-men who then supply the more familiar “terrestrial” market places. Not far from here we also visit one of the countless fish farms operating in the Mekong Delta. Most families live above their fish cages, and primarily raise Basa and Telopea. They prepare their own fish food onsite, which is quite a pungent mix of fish and rice meal.
Once ashore we experience another form of local transport, the bicycle rickshaw. These two wheeled buggies are towed along by a bicycle and give us a relatively smooth ride around the streets of Chau Doc. Finally, we spend some time exploring the local street market, where we encounter a range of fresh fruits, vegetables and flowers – especially the apricot blossoms and the orange/yellow marigolds in preparation for the upcoming Tet new year festival.
Back on-board Jahan photographic instructor Doug Loneman taught us about photographic composition and gave us an insight into how the mind of a photographer works. After lunch naturalist Chris Cook gave his presentation on the biodiversity of the Mekong river system. Despite the great amount of human activity along this river, the region is still teeming with life.
In the late afternoon Jahan pulls ashore at the small village of My An Hung, one of many small farming communities along the river. The way of life of these small independent farms is normally at the whim of fluctuating market prices. We see fields of chilli plants and a nascent mango orchard, before being ushered further into the village. Here we experience a hybrid form of traditional folk music, with Vietnamese singing accompanied by an amplified electric guitar. Outside, and straddling the canal, the “monkey bridge” also demonstrates how building regulations are seemingly only used for larger types of structures. Finally, we are presented with a fantastic spread of fresh fruits, some familiar, some not so much.
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