Day 11 – Chau Doc: It’s All About Rice

After getting up at 07.00 o’clock, we checked out the hotel and set off for a 4 hours bus ride. Our destination was Chau Doc, located close to the border of Cambodia. The region is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam.

On our way we stopped after 3 hours at a brick factory in a typical rural village of Vietnam. The bricks are produced in a very simple manner, mainly by hand, and are fired in small ovens heated by rice husk (the outer layer of the rice seed), which are a waste product of the regional rice production. Next to the brick factory we had a walk through a rice field. Rice and brick production are an integral part of the housing in this small village and one can very well see the interrelation and dependency for people and community. Signs of it, especially of the brick production, are seen in all streets and sideways between the houses. The process from clay to brick takes about three months and a brick in Vietnam can be sold for 700 Dong, approximately CHF 0.035.

Shortly after, we arrived at our next stop of the first half of the day: A Rice production plant. Similarly to the interrelated housing and production system of the brick factory, the rice production plant is found in the middle of a village and does not appear as a factory at first sight. The village seems very poor, but inhabited by continuously smiling and very friendly Vietnamese.  As a result of the rice production, there is so much dust in the factory that one can hardly breathe. Simply spoken, the already dried rice is transported by various belt conveyers and through a few machines which separate the husk from the rice corn. The rice is packed into sacks in the end.

After checking into the hotel in Chau Doc and having lunch there, we headed off for our next stop and the highlight of the day: A fishing village on the Mekong River. The fishermen live on floating houses which are at the same time transporting and storing living fish in cages attached below the raft on which the houses are built. The people produce fish feed, made of rice husk. We made our way by boat to the swimming houses and had then the opportunity to speak with a local fisherman and ask them some questions concerning their living. The floating houses provide a home not only for the people living in there, but also for dogs, cats, pigs, and chicken. Breading fish right underneath the living room, the houses are in fact a fish farm. The walls of the house continue underwater in form of nets within which the fish are held. For feeding the fish, a hatch can be opened within the living area.

We then went on by boat to a small village on an isolated part of the Mekong shore. The boat trip and the stops, lasting for around 2 hours, were a very breathtaking experience and a revealing change to the long bus ride of the morning.

For our next and last stop the groups from the two busses had different activities. One group went to a Pagoda in Chau Doc, located very closely to our hotel. The monastery, a so called Pagoda, is beautifully painted and designed in a typical Vietnamese and very colourful manner. Inside the Pagoda one finds Buddha statues, beautifully handcrafted tables and chairs and golden shrines, all of it covered in a smell of incense sticks. It became obvious that the Pagoda plays a very important role in Vietnamese social life and as an immense cultural influence. The other group started their last activity of the day at the foot of a hill. They were given the option of walking two kilometres uphill or go by a scooter taxi. The students deciding to go by scooter arrived at the top just in time to see the sun set painting the sky into a beautiful reddish-pink. The view extends over rice fields, rivers, and small towns all the way to the Cambodian border.

We had dinner again at the hotel. After a second de-briefing concerning the study trip, in which each of us expressed their most positive experience, we were released to enjoy our spare time at 9 p.m.

Best regards,

Day Team 11: Kipper, Butti, Ucros

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