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February 16, 2004

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Two deltas, Red River in the north and Mekong in the South, bound Vietnam like bookends. This morning we set out to explore the southern one. A long bus ride to Mytho starts the journey. Rice paddies and palm trees cover the flat horizon. The Mekong delta sprawls over a floodplain, depositing silt at the river mouth, enough to extend the shoreline by 80 meters per annum. The road we use is elevated to keep dry during floods and runs like a ridge along the rice paddies. By midday we've penetrated the delta far enough to use boat transportation, so our exploration begins into a world dominated by farming, fishing, and floating markets.
The Mekong delta produces enough rice to feed the entire country and creates a surplus that places Vietnam as the world's second largest rice exporter. Oven fires are fueled by rice husks. People make all types of rice based food, including porridges, liquors and these oversized rice pancakes which are cut into rice noodles.
Canals lead through coconut groves. The water levels rise and fall with the tides and seasons. At its peak, over 38000 cubic meters per second flow down the Mekong River, one of the world's largest water systems.
In the delta any longboat can be a shop or a shopping cart.