On the weekend we decided to go on a tour to Mekong Delta. Two day trip costs $23 per person including one night at a hotel. What a deal! After two hour bus ride to the delta, we took a ferry to the Unicorn Island, where we hopped on smaller boats to enjoy narrow canals in the midst of lush tropical vegetation. We tasted local fruit, visited rice husking mill, coconut candy shop, rice noodle shop and floating market.
There are only 500 people on the Unicorn Island and their main transportation is boats. As we passed by some locals minding their own business we wondered if they are any unhappier than us. Yes, they don’t have the privilege of running water, better medicine, education and other things, but that doesn’t really mean that they are unhappy.
They have problems, like all of us, but different problems. They don’t worry about 401K getting smaller. They don’t have pension. They don’t worry how many calories are in the food they eat, they are glad to have any food. But they are happy, like us, when their children do well at school and when they have good health and everything is all right in their family.
As I tipped the rowing woman 10,000 Dong (50 cents), her eyes sparkled as it was a big tip to her. Average salary for non-educated workers is about 30-40 dollars a month. And not every person has a job.
We had lunch at the local restaurant, I ordered fresh mango juice, fried rice with chicken, crepe with cocoa and spent $7. It felt like we, tourists, are living luxury life which locals can’t afford.
Thinking about some dinners I had back in Boston, that cost more than $100, that is money wasting…
We came back to Saigon and told local volunteer Hieu about the trip. She said she’s never been to Mekong Delta, as it is expensive. Her mom sells fruit at the local market, while she goes to college and plans to become a teacher.