This was the most amazing experience I had during my visit to Cambodia and Vietnam. The great river is the seventh largest in Asia and covers Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Myanmar. It forms the very fertile Mekong delta in Vietnam. This is a lush green region of swamps, lakes and river which is also known as the rice bowl. Rice is produced in this region and is the stable diet in the region. Rice is enjoyed in the orient along with various types of soups and gravies. The river is mainly grey in colour, muddy at times and sometimes green when it reaches the swamps. Low trees with thick foliage cover the narrows straits of the delta. One has to use wooden boats to take a ride in these swamps. Jackets are provided to travellers in advance. One can see tea shops on boats and women selling biscuits, water and cola, all paddling away in the river. It reminded me of floating across the dull lake in Srinagar. I got a similar feel when I was going through the various floating markets in the lake. I also came across people who were selling snacks, shawls, perfumes, handicrafts and saffron.
The bank of the Mekong River is littered with wooden huts where the farmers live. They make their living either by fishing or growing crops. These are the poorer areas of the country. Lots of women return here after working as escorts and prostitutes in the city. I travelled from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh on a large motor boat. It was a 10-hour journey through the Mekong River. I was sitting at the top of the boat and enjoyed the richness of blood and wind blowing across me. I had the local Angkor Beer to give me company. The intoxicating smell of the river nearby vegetation and the open sky was all that I could see. As some of my fellow travellers became engrossed in conversation and chitchat, little children pester the tourists and take their photographs. These photographs are then printed on mugs and plates as drawing room memorabilia and are sold for a few dollars which are a very welcome currency in this part of the world.
I enjoyed chatting to the local boatman who was very pissed with the tourists from Taiwan and China as they don’t tip well and are very stingy. My boat stopped near a floating restaurant. There, I tried having fried snake. I gulped down the snake with beer and green salad. To me, it tasted like fried fish. Now, I can safely say that I have enjoyed eating snake meat. I rested myself for a while before we departed to see a floating children’s school on the river. I donated two bags of rice to the poor children there and prayed for my father’s soul. The children were joyful and were also touched by my loving gesture of help. The Mekong was like a mother to the region. In its belly, it carries more than 10,000 species as it meanders through nurturing the region.