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Travel Asia Vietnam Mekong Delta - an endangered treasure

Mekong Delta - an endangered treasure

The Mekong Delta, Vietnam, Asia, Floating Market

Mekong is the 10th longest watercourse in the world and also the longest in Southeast Asia, the most important natural resource of the region. Its begins the long road in the Tibetan plateau, springing to over 5,200 meters altitude, then pass through six countries along the 4350 kilometers, to be shed in the South China Sea through southern Vietnam. Here is an impressive Mekong delta covering an area of approximately 40,000 square kilometers.

Called Song Cuu Long (Nine Dragon River) by Vietnamese, known as reflecting the number of arms, which divides in the territory of Vietnam, Mekong is a true life-giving source for people living in from southern delta. 18 million people live in this region, but several tens of millions depend on rice grown in this area, which annually produces millions of tons from the essential food for Asian continent.

Rice is seen as a divine gift in the region, and 80% of the population living in the Mekong Delta is working to produce "white gold" as it is called. Thanks to the fertile regions, Vietnam is the second world exporter of rice after Thailand.

Biodiversity of Mekong is impressive, it is the second river of the planet, the variety and abundance of species encountered. Between 1997 and 2007, scientists have found, on average, two new species every week - a total of 1068! Following these findings, WWF has designated Mekong a "biological treasure." Only the Amazon River, the largest river basin on Earth, has a wider variety of species. Like Amazon, Mekong suffers from climate change.

In addition to the large number of species in the region and spectacular scenery, Mekong delta, impresses by the floating markets, mangrove swamp, rice plantations and villages where handicrafts are practiced. To explore the Mekong Delta need several days and the recommended starting point is Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC short), also known under the name of Saigon, the largest city in Vietnam.

Ho Chi Minh City, Pearl of the Orient

Long known under the name of Saigon, the city that hosts more than 7 million people in 1975 was renamed Ho Chi Minh City, taking the name of the founder, Viet Minh, the nationalist movement that fought communist influence the independence of Vietnam. However, many locals and tourists use the name Saigon, especially with reference to the downtown area.

Before starting the journey through Mekong delta, it is worth exploring what has been dubbed over time "Pearl of the Orient" and "Paris of the Orient", especially to understand the history of the region tested by French colonialism and civil war (known in the West as the Vietnam War).

Among the elements that reflect the tumultuous history of South Vietnam are buildings that stands from French colonial period and tunnels Cu Chi used by Viet Cong guerrillas to fight the U.S. Army during the Civil War. At the end of the visit in the Viet Cong tunnels at the surface, you can test the weapons used in the war, including the M16, AK-47 and M60.

If you want to learn more details from behind the civil war in which U.S. military was involved, you must visit the Reunification Palace, nicknamed "The White House South Vietnam." Here you can admire the tank with the number 843, which ended the war on April 30, 1975, by entering and destroying the main gate of the palace courtyard.

Once you've visited tourist landmarks key in Saigon, it is recommended to choose a travel agency to contract a circuit through the Mekong Delta. Although you can explore the region without the help of travel agents, large numbers of vehicles that you need (from bus to boat and bicycle) and the fact that they can lead to less beaten paths of the Delta, preparing you a custom route, is a strong case for the services provided by travel agencies.

The key points of a circuit through Mekong delta

Most trips that start from Ho Chi Minh City have, as a first stopping point, My Tho. Located 70 kilometers from HCMC, it is the nearest town in the Mekong delta. Do not miss the temple of Cao Đài, place of worship of the religion founded in the Vietnam in 1926 homonyms, which has among the precepts of prayer, worship of ancestors, nonviolence and vegetarianism.

Cai Be floating market, where small producers sell their goods in boats, is a popular place among tourists who want to see how things everyday activities of life of the inhabitants of this region. This market is spread over several kilometers along the two sides of one of the arms of the Mekong.

Extremely crowded market is open from 3 am. To make it easy to identify products by potential buyers, traders have in the champagne's (traditional boats) tall bamboo poles, called Cay beo, from which hang several pieces from property exposed for sale.

In the area can be visited, Vietnamese traditional villages, where you can admire orchards located on islands completely covered in the trees. Here you can try many tropical fruits straight from the source and you can witness the production of pasta that characterizes Vietnamese cuisine. Friendly locals will give you a traditional specialty: rice wine. The most daring (and loud stomach) can enjoy a different traditional wine: cobra wine produced by a snake marinating in the rice wine. Vietnamese in traditional medicine, this is a useful remedy in many diseases, among others being considered and an excellent substitute for Viagra.

Adventure in the Mekong Delta will take you to Vinh Long, lush plants surrounded by channels, which creates an impressive atmosphere. If you want to know how countless local cross channel region streaking through the heavens, you can venture on a traditional bridges. Called "monkey bridges" will require attention and physical condition due bamboo rails, apparently shaky.

Next stop is in Can Tho, the largest city from Mekong delta, where they live more than a million people. The city is famous for its floating market, Cai Rang is best known. Do not miss the chance to taste the fruits of Vietnamese, including Thanh Long (dragon fruit), Khe (star fruit), or Rieng (durian) or the 45 species of papaya grown in this country.

Numerous narrow channels that create a romantic atmosphere streaking through the heavens city, so many couples from Ho Chi Minh City spend their honeymoon in Can Tho.
It is also worth to visit pagoda Munirangsyaram, a building that reflects the Khmer style, and traditional villages near the city, where artisans produce rice paper and wove baskets in the traditional Vietnamese style.

Recently, Vietnamese authorities have opened an international airport in Can Tho, hoping to attract thus more tourists in the Mekong delta.

Another city worth to visit in the Mekong delta is Chau Doc, situated on the border with Cambodia. Chau Doc is a cosmopolitan city, the largest minority communities are Chinese, Khmer and Cham (the only, Muslim ethnic group in the region). This is reflected in the variety of places of worship that can be found in the city, from the impressive mosque Ghiang Chau to Vietnamese traditional temples. A unique experience that you can live in the city is a journey back seat xe loi, a unique bicycle, typical delta region.

The villages around the city, inhabited by Cham minority, attract a large number of tourists who want to study craftsmen, famous for silk processing and to visit the "floating houses" that characterize the area. Under these houses floating on metal containers, the locals rise above tough (a species of pangasius) in the mesh, allowing them to enjoy the natural habitat provided by the river. This type of fishing its used to obtain 20% of annual production of fish.

For a complete experience, deserves to go through, the 7 km that separate Chau Doc, by Mount Sam. Although Sam is more of a hill not very high, its top standing at 230 meters above sea level, you will find that ascent is quite steep. Halfway to the summit is Hang Pagoda, a temple 200 years old which is an important place of pilgrimage for the inhabitants of the region. Once on top, you will discover that this effort was worth it to apply: Mount Sam is the only party of its kind in the area, and on top of it, you have the chance to admire an impressive view, which includes large tracts from Vietnam, but also from Cambodia.

Chau Doc is the terminus of the tourist route most frequently chosen through Mekong delta, the journey back to Ho Chi Minh City will take 8 hours by car. The most daring, however, may continue their journey to Cambodia. Visas can be obtained at the border.

What is the future of the Mekong Delta?

Experts who have studied the effects of climate change argue that the Mekong Delta will be one of the regions most affected by rising sea levels. It rose by 20 centimeters in the delta in the last 50 years and the trend seems to accelerate.

A government report estimates the average sea level rise by 65 to 100 centimeters by the end of the century. The implications of these forecasts for the Mekong Delta region are devastating: a rise in sea level by 65 inches would result in flooding of approximately 13% of the surface, ie approximately 7580 square kilometers, while the pessimistic scenario, the sea level would rise with a meter would involve a flood of 37.8% of the Mekong delta current, over 15,000 square kilometers. About 11% of Vietnam's population would be affected by these climate changes.

High tides already causing flooding in towns in the region and the Vietnamese government began relocating thousands of families living in the delta to higher areas and construction of dams. Another effort is made by the authorities in the planting mangrove forests on an area of 45,000 hectares, to facilitate the accumulation of sediment that would mitigate the effect of flooding.

However, the effect of flooding is more serious each year. To avoid damage caused in rural areas, the inhabitants of the delta began to move to the cities during the wet season, causing hundreds of casualties. This is not a lasting solution: it is estimated that about 20 years, Can Tho, the main town of the region, will also be covered by water.

Experts estimate that, despite government initiatives, millions of people will be forced to leave the Mekong delta. So if you want to visit this place full of history, unique natural wealth and source of food for millions of people, hurry up! In just two decades, much will be under water...