Villages along the Mekong River. In our recent trip to Vietnam (and Cambodia), we were lucky to have been able to visit some of the villages whose rhythm is very much tuned to the ebbs and flows of the Mekong River. For the most part, the villages border the river, with houses built to be able to fish from one side of the house and grow vegetables and raise a few cows and chickens on the other side. We did visit some workshops where villagers were producing a variety of products, including woven textiles, rattan mats, candy, and rice wine, but the countryside is most decidedly a water culture. Land not being used for homes and villages, or closer to the cities manufacturing plants, is cultivated – and flooded – for rice paddies. I will let some pictures tell the story.
Halong Bay. A report of our time in rural Vietnam would not be complete without some pictures from one of the world’s most scenic sites, Halong Bay. Many of us first became acquainted with this spectacular spot when it was featured in a James Bond movie, “Tomorrow Never Dies”, in 1997. Halong Bay was recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1994 and in 2012 was named one of the world’s “New 7 Natural Wonders”. The site is huge, and we certainly did not see it all. The core area alone is nearly 350 sq. kms, with nearly 800 limestone islets. The overall area is far larger. And it is as spectacular as it appears in photos. But, the extent of its popularity as a tourist destination was still a surprise. People can enjoy a day trip on a sight-seeing boat, or spend a night on a small cruise ship, locally called a modern junk. All is done in grand style, and in grand company. There were many, many such ships in the part of the bay we enjoyed, and according to our guide there is a fleet of 500 tourist boats operating in the area! Still, simply splendid.