The breakfast took place in the rear deck of the boats, the crew had already prepared everything in advance. The views as well as the ambiance were stunning, as the two heavy vessels, still tied together, gently floated upwards on the quiet Mekong River. The fresh morning breeze helped everyone to wake up quickly.
It took another one-and-a-half hours until we reached our anchorage, where we changed to small boats that would allow us to travel further river upwards and see Vietnam’s largest floating market.
There were an uncountable number of little barks and small rowing boats that sold almost anything related to Vietnamese food. There was a diversity of sights and scents, which carried on as we went onshore to visit a typical market in Can Tho. Pigs and chickens were taken apart with bare hands on the open street. The smell of this was not easy to take for everyone.
For once, we felt that we were experiencing the real Vietnam. At some point it was not even clear whether we were watching the Vietnamese merchants or whether they were observing us…
After the market visit, we got on the boats again and travelled river downwards to our accommodation, where we had lunch right by the riverside and the check-in at the hotel later on. Thereafter, the class split in two groups again to do a bicycle tour one after the other.
The bicycle tour along canals through the countryside was an amazing experience.The nature felt completely untouched by commercial motives and the dwellers appeared to live in peace and serenity in midst of green rice fields and fruit gardens. A highlight of this tour was meeting the owner of a small fruit plantation.
He answered all our questions and gave us a glimpse about his life during the Vietnam war. Group 2 started the tour in the late afternoon and even saw a mind-blowingly red sunset.
After everyone got back home and enjoyed an involuntarily cold shower, we took off for dinner. We walked towards a restaurant at the riverside and to our astonishment did not take seats in the restaurant, but in two boats in front of the outlet. The usual guests seemed quite surprised about this.
The wooden boats were open on all sides and the tables were beautifully set up. A fantastic river cruise dinner followed. Life could have been worse.
After dinner, most people went on individual tours through Can Tho’s riverside night market, which was so full of colours and smells once again.
We received so many smiles and gentle gestures so that we perceived the Vietnamese as a happy and embracing people. Although they have so little from our perspective, they still seem to live a fulfilled life. It was a new experience for us to see people being able to live a happy life on almost nothing and it became clear once again that contentedness does not at all depend on material wealth.
(Lorraine Serena & Charkris Ammann)