Today we hired a boat, with a boat driver and local guide, from the hotel. The plan was to travel through some of the canals, visit a durian tree farmer on one of the islands and then to a floating market before meeting up with our van.
For the first time in the Mekong I felt as though I could relax and enjoy myself. Driving through the Mekong delta had already caught my imagination… a region with a population of 18 million in 2000 and currently estimated to be 21 million by 2010. A place of people, rice, water, fruit farms, endless bridge crossings over the many canals and larger crossings over the “nine dragons”. Being on the water totally fascinated me.
We eventually came to a bank where we disembarked to visit the ‘wise’ durian grower. As it turned out this was a young businessman and his mother, the Sau Ri family (name of the father), who had converted from rice to durian production about seven years ago with the help of Thai technology and Australian aid. They were extremely nice people, growing durian trees for fruit as well as a large durian tree nursery on their ten hectares of land.
These people have clearly acted positively by diversifying away from rice to a very productive fruit crop. The mother talked about the many problems in the area, pollution of water from heavy chemical use, erosion problems from river boats, insect pests in the rice. She commented that the weather is more erratic than in the past, but they don’t have any major issues as durian growers.