Six o’clock wake up after a restless night (not in the “zone” yet), but another big breakfast and we’re off on Highway 1A (that runs the length of Vietnam) south toward the Mekong Delta.
The traffic in Hanoi is a sight to behold, and a terror to join. There are 6 million motor bikes and they always seem to be out at the same time. Riders are now required to wear helmets, but you still see multiple riders and even families of four with dad driving, mom in the back, an infant (with no helmet) squeezed between them, and a toddler holding the handle bar in front of dad.
We make it out of town and stop at the Vinh Trang Pagoda with three enormous Buddhas lying, sitting and towering over the grounds. More than half of Vietnamese are Buddhists so you see immaculate pagodas popping up even in the dingiest parts of town.
Beautiful and eclectic statuary all over the grounds.
We finally hit the highway (no motorbikes allowed) and speed on through rice growing country. Vietnam is the third largest rice producer in the world. In the south in the Mekong Delta they have four harvests a year, more than in any other place on earth.
As we pass through we see these “little houses” in the middle of the growing rice? They turn out to be tombs for the farmers that have lived there all their lives…and died there. It’s a local custom that has now been stopped by the government. Everyone has to end up in a cemetery now.
A long boat takes us out from the Mekong river to the delta. On the way we see complexes of fish farms — you know, the ones they tell you not to buy your tilapia and basa fish from. We saw them (didn’t know what they were) when we landed in Hanoi at night. Apparently the fishermen light them up at night to keep out poachers.
The delta alternates by season from fresh to salt to brackish waters. It’s brown color is a tribute to the fertile sandy soil constantly being dredged up to move to the rice paddies. Large barges piled with the sand are everywhere.
Coconut island grows both water and tree coconuts and puts a lot of people to work making coconut products from candy to flavoring so to coconut wine.
Lots of wildlife on the islands in the Delta. An important bird migration stop, a place where crocodiles are bred to replace those poached, and all kinds of snakes that like to mingle with the people like this Python.
Lunch on the way back to town is absolutely spectacular. I repeat that Thai food is very special.
A sticky rice paste is apparently wrapped in a flavored rice paper sheet and then “baked” until it blows up to this ostrich egg-like shape. The server pops it, cuts it with shears and then wraps the paste with the paper and serves it. A spectacular service and unique texture and taste.
The crispy fried “elephant ear fish” flesh is pulled from the bones by the server and wrapped in rice paper with lettuce, kaffir lime leaves, pineapple and rice noodles. Just Wow. We stripped the bones clean with our hands.
And we close the day as we began, flowing with the chaotic stream of now rush hour traffic. We take a walk and a very light snack, then start packing for the 5:30 am wake up call for our flight north to Hue in Central Vietnam.