Friday, February 17, 2012 Ho Chi Mihn City, Vietnam and the Mekong River Delta
Today the remaining members of Class VI checked out of their hotel and boarded a bus to travel to the Mekong River Delta, a 70 km drive. We observed rice fields in all stages of growth, farmers here are able to get three annual rice harvests each year. We also saw corn, cattle, coconuts, and a large plant where pineapple are processed. Our tour guide for the day, Hung, said that during pineapple harvest farmers harvest as many as 100 tonnes of pineapple each day. One stop along the way, at the Mekong Rest Stop, a beautiful garden, afforded the class a bit of shopping. A short drive later to the village of MyTho and we were off the bus and onto a boat headed up the Mekong River. The Mekong River is the 13th longest river in the world and it flows through 6 countries before it enters the Pacific Ocean at the southern tip of Vietnam.
After a short boat ride we stopped at the fish farm of Mr. Phuc, who raises red snapper in three cages near an island in the river. The fish are purchased as fry and grow to harvest weight in about 5 months. Each harvest yields about 8 tonnes of fish. The fish are loaded live onto water hold boats and taken around the delta where they are sold live in small groups to individuals who take them to markets all around the area where they are sold again, still alive, to housewives who will prepare them that day for a meal. Mr. Phuc feeds approximately 200kg of pelleted feed each day total between all 3 cages. The feed costs about 15,000 VND per kilo or about $ .31 per pound. This comes out to about $55.00 – 60.00 per cage per day in feed cost. The pellets are made of compressed rice flour, shrimp and fish meal. When the fish are sold each 8 tonne harvest grosses Mr. Phuc about $13,440, as he gets approx. 30,000 VND per kilo of fish sold. When the cost of feed is taken out, he nets about $4,440.00 every 5 months (less the cost of purchasing the fish). Mr. Phuc also raises dogs on his floating home/fish cages for protection as people try to steal the fish he is raising.
A small discussion was raised with our tour guide Hung who explained that the Vietnamese fish farmers would like to sell their fish to the United States but they are banned in the US. Consequently the fish are sold to European countries and other countries around the world who removed the Vietnamese information and then sell them to the United States.
After the fish farm we went on to a couple of islands where we tasted honey tea, watched coconut processing into candy, tasted fresh fruit including Dragon’s Eye, Durian, Papaya, and Pineapple. Hung explained that people in the delta used to raise more rice but have found that due to soil conditions and profit, they are better off raising fruit for sale instead of rice. It was also obvious that tourism plays a VERY large role in the economy of the area as evidenced by the singers we watched, the multitude of places trying to sell souvenirs including honey, dried fruit, candy, clothing, etc., the pony cart ride we guiltily took (very small, very thin ponies pulling heavy carts loaded with oversized American visitors), and the paddle boat ride we were taken on at the end of our “adventure”. The day was eye opening, enjoyable, wet (rainy) and hot but we are all glad we were able to be there.
After the delta tour another short bus ride took us back to the Mekong Rest Stop for lunch featuring fried sticky rice balls and elephant ear fish. Then we rode all the way back to the Ho Chi Mihn Airport for the plane ride back to Hong Kong.
Written from 25,500 feet in the air, about 26 minutes from Hong Kong… Rebecca Rink, Reporter