Excursion to a village in the region of Ben Tre in southern Vietnam

March 2013

The South Vietnam, and in particular the tick network of natural channels formed by the delta of the Mekong River, is home to many villages connected to the rest of the world only through the waterways. Here families live mainly by fishing and agriculture, in homes and fields often completely hidden by the dense tropical vegetation. A bicycle tour around the tracks of these villages, allows to appreciate the simple life of this population.

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River in Vietnam Mekong Delta
Among the dense network of branches of the Mekong Delta, there are numerous villages completely surrounded by the vegetation. The water channels are used as a great natural highway and almost all people have at least a small boat for daily commuting.

 

Nypa fruticans Nypa palm
Nypa palma fruit The banks of the canals are populated by dense vegetation represented mainly by Nypa fruticans, a special palm tree that lives in aquatic ecosystems similar to those colonized by mangroves. Locally known as "water coconut", the leaves, which can be up to nine meters long, are used to cover the roofs of the houses. In the picture on the left, the fruit of Nypa fruticans (nipa palm).

 

Village in Vietnam Vietnam by bike
The villages are completely surrounded by the vegetation and, in most cases, they have only narrow concrete roads where people travel by bicycle or a motorbike.

 

A farmer house in Vietnam
The houses are almost completely invisible in the dense vegetation.

 

Field of tropical fruit Pineapples
Chickens
Around the house there are wide gardens and cultivated fields with tropical fruits, where there are also farm animals.



 

A grapefruit tree, whose fruits are protected by a network that prevents the butterflies from lay down, thus reducing the problem of fruit infested by larvae.

 

Production of mats loom for mats
Mats The families in the village make a living through a variety of activities which include mainly the food and textile sectors. In these photos, a rudimentary frame is used to produce mats from long bundles of grass growing on the banks of the river. It takes about half a day to produce two mats of about two meters length each.


 

 

Loaded bike
Between the tracks of the village it is easy to find bicycles heavily loaded.

 

Coconut working A load of coconuts
The processing of the coconut and the transport of connected  materials is one of the main activities of the village, which is performed by many inhabitants.

 

Palm leaves
The leaves of the nipa palm (Nypa fruticans) are hung out to dry in the sun as they are used to cover roofs and facades of buildings.

 

How to climb a palm tree Climbing a palm tree
I visit a nice man who tells me how to climb easily and in complete safety on the palm trees. First, a large ring made with banana leaves is applied around the ankles ;it works like a grip on the trunk preventing subsequent to slide down, then... you climb. No need to say that I had to give up in half a meter from the ground, while the owner of the palm arrived almost at the top in few seconds and with a very little effort.



 

Fishmonger Fish stall
Street market The village also has a small market where people buy or exchange goods. Since the Mekong Delta is home to a wide variety of fish, most of the stalls are dedicated to selling fish, although there are also stalls selling meat

 

Cycas revoluta Ancient Cycas revoluta
Among the tracks of the village I come across a huge Cycas revoluta, a palm tree which grows  very slowly. This specimen is told to be about a century old, but in my opinion, judging both the size of the canopy (5 meters) and  the size of the barrel, I think it's much older. Fortunately it is survived after the herbicide sprayed by air over a large part of the Mekong Delta by the U.S. Army during the Vietnam War.

 

Graves in the village
In the village there is not  a real cemetery, as the Vietnamese prefer in most cases to be buried in the courtyard of their home, or in their field.

 

 Phu Nhuan Temple
I visit the small temple of Phu Nhuan abandoned for lack of believers, where the altar was desecrated and deprived of  the statue which represented the deity.




 

Cruise in Vietnam
Finally, I leave the village on board a small boat.

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English translation by Lorena Anzani.