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VIETNAM: IN THE WATER LABYRINTH

A ray of light is drawn out of the darkness. And begins to rummage boats. One by one. Hull, hold, cabins, mast. On the clock – the beginning of the fourth night. But the noise of boat engines pulls out of sleep. On the Mekong reigns. In a wide bay, like the sea, against the background of a blackened city far away, more and more vessels are being assembled. At first, only their navigation lights are visible in the dark. Then you hear the rumble of the motor. Team screams. The thud of the colliding sides. Clang anchor chains. Above the river mist swirls, exuding a rotten smell.

The spotlight peeps into our cabin, slides along the superstructures, soars upward along the mast. There is a roar of the engine. A strange boat is flying toward us, shouting something from it. The man behind the searchlight exchanges a couple of phrases with our captain. Their boat unfolds.

Only in a few hours it will become clear that there was nothing to fear. Because in the floating market near the city of Longsuen, the searchlight is a means of communication between the merchants. Boats from different regions of Vietnam sail here. In their holds – pineapples, pitahaya, javanese apples, mangoes, melons, coconuts. What is the load on board, can be seen on the sign on the mast. It may be a pumpkin or a bunch of cassava roots. Buyers swim, bargain, hit their hands, reload the goods to themselves and take them to the city for resale.

It is the third day of travel in the Mekong Delta on a small passenger boat. Here, the 4500-kilometer “River of Nine Dragons” is divided into eight arms, width in some places more than a kilometer, connected by countless channels and channels. For twenty million local residents, it is the transportation network, the irrigation system, the sewage system, and the source of drinking water.

Expedition through this water maze is a rare, but very good opportunity to dive into the Vietnamese daily life. See how they, like a tightrope walker, move along the bamboo rails thrown over the canals – the so-called “monkey bridges”. Learn to eat chopsticks noodle soup. Find out how emotional the locals can be. And how rude. And with what passion do the trade. Since the ruling Communist Party in the country began market reforms, officially referred to as “renewal”, many have rushed into commerce headlong. For example, a young guy puts five thousand multi-colored clothes hangers in the back of his truck bike. What for? Will sell on the street, because there already “many already trade in them.” Hm Original logic.

Before sailing – a tour of Ho Chi Minh City. In this dynamic and noisy metropolis do not recognize the old Saigon. A minibus from the airport with a desperate bebikas slips through the traffic jam. Turmoil, as in Bangkok. Construction sites, as in Shanghai. Vietnam’s GDP growth is a record five percent.

In the field of tourism – also records. In the late 1980s, almost 100,000 foreigners arrived here a year. Last year – already seven million. The compulsory tour program includes visits to Hanoi, the beautifully beautiful Halong Bay, the ruins of the former residence of the Vietnamese emperors Hue, the beaches of Da Nang and Nha Trang. And rafting on the Mekong Delta.

Yet Ho Chi Minh still keeps the old spirit of the “French” Indochina. Neon signs while only in the center. There is no ubiquitous McDonald’s or the subway. Around one mopeds. Whom you just can not meet! A farmer with a basket of apples on his back. Another – with a live pig in the back seat. Fishermen with wicker traps. Artisans with their tools. Urban fashionable women and dudes. Couples in love. Mother with daughter in red patent leather shoes. Whole families with children (the child sleeps with his head on the steering wheel). It is said that six million mopeds account for seven million residents of Ho Chi Minh City.

In the business center metropolis breaks into the sky. But around the glittering skyscrapers – sleeping areas with panel high-rises. From the noisy city, the freeway rushes along rice fields and villages, towns and industrial zones into the interior of the country. In some places, the first fruits of modernization are visible, but basically poverty reigns here. People work a lot and hard, and the average per capita income is no more than 800 euros per year. The wind drives garbage along the roads. On the sides of the lined up close to each other auto-cafe. In them it is possible for a little money to take a break on a plastic chair. And swing in a hammock, putting a moped alongside and sipping from the cans the popular local beer “333”. Or “ba-ba-ba”, as it is called in Vietnamese.

Finally, a minibus drives into the shipyard. Around – chips, pieces of iron, pieces of plastic. Workers install the engine in the boat. Hammers roar, hisses compressed gas from a cylinder, the dog barks. From the concrete pier, we jump onto a sailing boat, which takes away from all this chaos.

In the dense jungle between pandanas and banana palm trees are wooden houses, standing half on the shore, half on stilts above the water – a tax on real estate in Vietnam.

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