Kiên Giang, a province in the Mekong Delta

My friend on Facebook just reposted a commercial about watermelon delivery in a small town called Long Xuyên in An Giang province in the southern Mekong area of Vietnam.

So I’d like to talk to you about the neighbouring province, Kiên Giang. Why ? This is where my wife comes from. It’s a reasonably large province for that part of the Mekong and represents the second most southerly province in Vietnam. It’s western border is the ocean that makes up the Gulf of Thailand. To its north is the Cambodian border. The only major city south of it in this part of South East Asia is Ca Mau.

Kiên Giang is a humid, wet, jungle-filled area. Its dry season lasts for just three months of the year. It is precisely 10 degrees above the equator. It has only one city in it named Rạch Giá and one small town named Hà Tiên. The rest is what my wife refers to in English as “the countryside”, which it certainly is.

The small communities along the river such as near Hà Tiên do have minor modern conveniences. You will not find a hotel, but you will find small internet cafes, convenience stores (of sorts) and restaurants. They also have mobile internet there. Coming from the countryside of Australia where you might not get a mobile signal standing on your roof, 3 km from the local post office, it amazes me that in the countryside of Kiên Giang, like in most parts of Vietnam, you can reasonably expect to get a mobile signal. Even a HSDPA connection most of the time, although tower slots are scarce and sometimes you do have to fall back to 2G for a little.

Many of the communities here live among the canals. I was never sure in the area I was in whether the water was flowing in from the ocean or down from inland though I expect that due to the rainfall it would have probably been mostly fresh water had I been brave enough to taste it. Land is plentiful and not too expensive here if you are strong-willed enough to carve out your life this far into the southern Mekong Delta. But you likely won’t get road access to your house.

My wife doesn’t have it to family’s home. They park their motorbikes in a tin shed on the other side of the canal because noone has yet built a bridge across the canal for them. People in that area get to their home, and often to the market, via large fibreglass canoes with long single-shaft engines that they frequently have to pull out of the water to remove rubbish or plant-life from. This is the part of Vietnam where the morning markets often float on the water in canoes, where people live in grass-thatched, mud-floor houses and they sleep in hammocks outside when the mosquitos aren’t too bad.

It is a beautiful countryside. Life is quiet and the only sounds nearby are of the birds and occasional passing boats rather than the busy buzz of motorbikes like the rest of Vietnam. People here have internet, but rarely the computers or modern phones to use it. They have TV, if they can manage to keep it repaired and rig up something as an antenna. But mostly, life is simpler. It’s about food, and family and a drink with friends and work. Fixing your motorbike, planting some food, catching some fish.

It’s a nice place. I like my wife’s home.

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