The human powered canoe quietly made its way through the muddy canal which cut through the middle of Tan Phong Island. As a short cut to the other side, the canal sees more than just tourists wearing cone shaped hats. Slender canoes wound their way around us loaded with bananas, rice or other wares.
Our daughter Kristi flew in from BYU-Idaho to join us for Christmas break. It was a great reason to excuse ourselves from the busy mission work and see some sights together.
Our friends, Elder and Sister MacDonald, joined us for the excursion. They are the LDS Charities humanitarian couple in Ho Chi Minh City and they do amazing charity work all throughout the southern part of the country.
Tan Phong Island sits between Tiền Giang and Vĩnh Long provinces (just in case you want to Google it!). The village of Cái Bè , and the island near it, are popular tourist sites. The island is also a paradise for growing jack fruit, papaya, mangostein, bananas, dragon fruit, guava, milk apples and a host of other fruits. Tropical flowers surrounded us on every turn.
|Courtesy of flickr.com Adrian Salgado|
There we were, sitting on the banks of the Mekong River, snacking on dragon fruit and watermelon, listening to traditional music by musicians in local costumes, basking under the thatched roof and surrounded by tropical lush foliage. It was a world away from the world.
And a world where tourists can dress in typical local farmer clothes and participate in traditional fishing practices. Kristi and I were excited to go. Our wonderful tour guide accompanied us.
Little did we know what awaited us! Rather than iconic river fishing with nets, we sludged through heavy thick mud, looking for elusive snakefish, while our tour guide and the attendant lowered the water level of the canal with a 68 year old bamboo basket.
Who would have known mucking through the canal mud could be so much fun! Gross, but fun!
"I caught one"!!!!!
You can see the cone shaped 68-year old bamboo basket they used to help lower the water level in the ditch so we could find the elusive fish!
Our trip continued down the Mekong River. The shacks and shanties along the river, often held up only by deteriorating posts and thatched walls, depicted the despondent river life of poverty.
Video of the Mekong River trip: HERE and also HERE
The famous, iconic floating markets along the Mekong River are slowly diminishing. Still, many set up their wares daily, selling more to locals than to tourists, coming in from the countryside to live on their boats for weeks at a time until their goods are gone. Some live on their boats forever, making them their life-long habitation, using the life-giving river for both water and bath.
Some even have a generator to provide electricity for important things like lights and television!
Then it was off to a local village to see how the villagers make popped rice, rice paper, and coconut candy, with delicious samples of each.
Here a woman demonstrates traditional rice paper making.
A delicious seafood lunch topped off the day- elephant ear fish and river prawns. The river provides life and sustenance, income and community.
And the boats are the center of their lives.
The river people paint large bright-colored eyes on their boats. The boats, which are central to their lives and livelihood, need the eyes to scare off evil spirits and keep the boat safe.
Eyes are an interesting thing - we talk about our eyes being single to God - meaning we focus on Him for our daily walk and our protection. We focus on Him as the center of our lives.
"And if your eye be single to my glory, your whole bodies shall be filled with light, and there shall be no darkness in you; and that body which is filled with light comprehendeth all things." D&C 88:67
As we work to keep our own eyes single to the glory of God, we recognize the eyes of the Lord watching over the good people of Vietnam. This is their time. This is their day.
All eyes are on you, Vietnam. Good things are coming!