Have you ever seen those tourists fall out of a kayak on a river boat cruise? You’re not a traveller until you’ve joined the club of embarrassment at falling in the Mekong River, in plain sight, with, at the very least, one-hundred spectators. Yes, that was me, adventurer Ben in all of my glory.
Okay, for the backstory. It was my second day on a Mekong River tour in Vietnam. I couldn’t resist the opportunity to get on the trip given I am bit of a business nerd and wanted to learn more about the agricultural importance of the Mekong. The tour wouldn’t be for everyone, it goes through the culture of rice farm families, small industrial towns, the history of the Mekong and the future prospects of the different areas.
The more entertaining, and partially active, part of the trip is the kayaking in the Mekong. I say partially because, as we are all lazy travellers, the locals paddle the boats and tourists (of all shapes and sizes) hop in the kayaks in two’s and three’s.
Qui (from my featured image), my guide for the kayak ride was a former rice farmer-turned kayak extraordinaire. She put an effort into talking to people and telling them as much of the interesting side of the Mekong as possible. Qui enjoyed speaking gossip stories of which farmer’s wife was cheating and which farmer’s kids are being kept out of their parent’s will. At one point, she started speaking about the importance of the bamboo that grows along the Mekong’s shoreline. It creates a fine valuable paper and can be picked from the water. Qui motioned for me to grab some of the leaves to feel their texture. Bad mistake. I reached to the side, carefully, and outstretched to the tree. Before I knew it I was wading through the dirty coffee-like water to get back into the boat. Thanks Qui.
From that experience, I can now tell you I am closer than many other tourists to the Mekong, and I think I gave a good story for all of the other tourists to tell.
If I learnt anything out of that, it is to make sure you always take a dry-bag with you as my camera, phone and wallet remained dry, while the rest of me was covered in Vietnam’s pride.