We cruised all day, reaching Vietnam waters, the formalities of checking visas (all taken care of for us by the staff) and finally mooring midstream at Tan Chau just in time for ice cream on the sundeck and a spectacular sunset.
The Mekong is mighty in southern Vietnam, wide and fast flowing. If Jerome Kern had seen it before the Mississippi, the caramel waters of the Mekong surely would have become Big Muddy.
Other things tip you off that you are now in Vietnam. Conical hats for one. Natives, men and women, all wear them. So do tourists when they discover how much cooler and more efficient they are for keeping off sun and rain.
They are particularly fetching when worn with the traditional ao dai, those flowing and flattering long, slit from the waist on the sides tunics the women wear over slacks or long skirts.
Seeing an above-the-ground burial vault in front or behind a house can be jarring. The Vietnamese form of Buddhism buries instead of cremates and having one’s relatives close to you or in the fields where they worked is propitious.
The land, enhanced by alluvial flows, is incredibly fertile. How does one’s garden grow? Profusely. The Mekong Delta produces three-and-one-half crops of rice a year thanks to its two seasons, hot and hotter.
In the morning we departed AmaDara by boat to visit settlements on the Mekong banks.
Evergreen Island was settled 40-50 years ago by Vietnamese escaping the brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge. The current population is about 700 and farming – fish, corn, melons and pigs – is the way of life on the one-mile-wide, two-and one-half-miles long island.
Even in this small space motorbikes and bicycles proliferate, dodging walkers and children along the dirt paths. No stoplights or traffic signals though, something many Westerners would envy.
We were invited into several homes with pigs underneath, shoes at the entrance or up the ramp, hammocks on the front porch and appliances and pantry inside.
Simple, but everyone seemed happy.
Our second stop had an industry, mat making. We saw the process from start to finish then participated in a bit of retail therapy.
Back aboard our floating home, it was an afternoon of cruising filled with talks about Vietnam and a fascinating fruit and vegetable tasting. At last we could match the weird outsides with the delicious insides.
At night? A jolly staff talent show and dancing in the Saigon Lounge-turned-disco, lights and all.