All afloat with the village people

Market produce at Tan Chau on the Mekong River in northern Vietnam.
Market produce at Tan Chau on the Mekong River in northern Vietnam. Photo: Alamy

"Locals came out on tenders to collect us from the AmaLotus and took us first to a floating village, where they had a fish farm.

"The people live on the water, on big rafts with the fish farms underneath.

"There is a 20-foot square cage made of bamboo suspended below the raft, with a net around it, and that's where the fish are kept.

"Families and animals, including pigs and chickens, live above the pen and when there's a flood they can move up and down with the waters.

"Everything happens on the water; fishing, washing, shopping and travelling.

"We were then taken onto land, where the houses are built on stilts because the Mekong floods.

"We saw the villagers out working in the fields, where the soil is very rich because of the flooding; everything is so green and lush.

"There are no roads other than dirt tracks, as they mostly use water-based transport.

"We went on rickshaws, which was great, because we were right among the people rather than looking down from a bus.

"We visited a local school, where we took some books and pencils.

"Most of the kids there go to school but some miss out.

"We went to a mat-making factory, where they were making rattan mats. That's what they sleep on: wooden beds with these rattan mats, which last about 12 months.

"The people work very hard.

"The local markets start at 3am and everyone goes early to get all their fresh produce, which they buy each day, as they don't have refrigeration. Luckily, there are no flies and they are able to leave their food out in the open.

"They cook outside, squatting on the ground, with everything going into one pot.

"They eat a very balanced diet, with one fish dish, one meat dish and rice each meal.

"They live on about one American dollar a day and it's amazing how much it can buy there.

"The locals were very welcoming and we were taken into their homes to see how they live.

"Tourism is just starting to happen there and they are very happy to have people coming into their town."

Value for money?

All shore excursions were included on Yvonne and Alan's cruise, which they felt represented excellent value for money.

"I couldn't have planned it myself; we wouldn't have seen all those things without going on that shore excursion," she says.

"Our guides had a real rapport with the people in the village and that led to a wonderful experience for us."

WHO Yvonne Rolley of Williamstown, Melbourne, on her sixth cruise.

WHAT Visiting a floating fish farm and rural village in Vietnam.

WHERE Tan Chau, on the Mekong River in northern Vietnam; just south of the Cambodian border.

THE SHIP Yvonne cruised with her husband Alan on the RV AmaLotus (aptouring.com.au), on a seven-night cruise from My Tho in Vietnam to Siem Reap in Cambodia.

As told to Jane E. Fraser

Have you done an interesting shore excursion? Drop us a line at travelshd@fairfaxmedia.com.au.

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