Our gateway to the Mekong Delta was via the city of My Tho about 2 hrs from Saigon. The Delta covers about 15,000 sq miles and is an incredibly rich ecosystem. We took a boat from My Tho out to the first of two large islands we visited in the Delta. 6,000 people live on the island which supports a wide range of cottage industries including bee keeping, orchid growing, large market gardens and active fisheries.
The second island we visited has a small restaurant where we had the best meal so far on the trip. Local elephant fish was steamed in coconut milk, lemon grass and green onion. it was then rolled in rice papers with basil, lettuce, rice noodles and drizzled with tamarind sauce. The islands are completely off the grid, the fish was cooked over wood and finished at the table using paraffin burners. A server was dedicated to each table to make the rolls for us. The lack of refrigeration makes for interesting restaurants. It hit home today when our guide ordered chicken. A number of small cages at the side of the restaurant housed individual chickens which I was photographing after we ordered. As I was snapping away a young man grabbed one rooster out of a cage and walked around to the back of the restaurant where the bird made its demise and reappeared as a saute about 20 mins later.
The Delta is a world in itself. House boats, fishermen, a huge highway leading to the sea and deeper into the continent and Cambodia – where we head tomorrow as we travel to Phnom Penh.