Last weekend, we roadtripped a few hours from Binh Duong to the Mekong Delta at the tip of South Vietnam where the Gulf of Thailand and the South China Sea meet. You can’t go very far in the region without hitting water. Paddle one way and you can end up on the shores of Singapore, paddle the other and you’ll find yourself in Cambodia. It’s not surprising that life has developed around these waterways, with boats becoming a means for transportation of both people and goods from farther astream.
If you wake up before the sun rises from the Mekong River, you can take a boat to a floating market where people sell watermelon, pineapple, squash, and more – to be certain of which, just look at the item hanging from a bamboo reed on the bow. Vendors in small boats will dock up next to you to offer coffee or pho, and, if you’re looking, you can spot someone washing their laundry or cleaning pots at the edge of the river.
Despite the rise of roadways, it is clear that there are still people who depend on the water, like those whose homes lean precariously over the river with water hyacinths for front yards or the fishermen who live for a month or more on the boat hoping for a good catch. To these people, I imagine the road, congested with its trucks and motorbikes, is an afterthought, but perhaps it is the reverse, an ever-present reminder of inevitable change.