We headed out of Tay Ninh in the direction of the Mekong Delta through the surrounding area known for its rattan, its conical hat production, its girdle cakes drying all around &, of course, for the fact that it marks where the Ho Chi Min Trail permiated through South Vietnam. Our route took us through Trang Bang, the town made (in)famous for the picture of the young girl fleeing whilst on fire from US napalm bombing, a photo which galvanised opposition to the war throughout the west & known to all of that generation. The photo for those who cant recall: http://vietnamnews.vnagency.com.vn/Life-Style/225761/doco-tracks-life-of-napalm-girl-photographer.html On past the (westerner visited) Ben Duoc & Ben Dinh (Cu Chi) tunnels, we were headed for the Mekong Delta. The volumes of traffic, in particular motor-bike traffic, as one appraoches HCM City are mind-boggling. At times bikes are compelled to use a reserved lane to the sides of what is otherwise a 4-lane dual carriageway. The sheer volume of bikes, including many going against the traffic (hey its Vietnam!) slow one's advance. Its tempting to take the road reserved for cars; we did, saving time & being stopped only once by the police! We reached My Tho, gateway to the Mekong Delta, a town founded in the late 1600's by chinese political refugees from Taiwan, their descendants driven from their land by the government following the American War. It begs the question, as with the hill-tribe people, as to how long one must stay in Vietnam to be considered one of them. The Mekong Delta, Vietnam's & one of the world's geat 'rice bowls', a land of a thousand shades of green, a life almost lost in a maze of waterways of houses high on stilts, women in conical hats & sanpans; a place where life is conducted from floating houses, boats & markets along, atop & over endless rivers & canals. The swamps & lush magroves formed by silt deposits over the centuries from the mighty Mekong which can see Vietnam's shoreline extended by as much as 80m per year. Here the Mekong splits into tributaries giving the region its name - Song Cuu Long or River of Nine Dragons. Almost every inch is under cultivation, if not rice its sugar cane or a dizzying array of fruit. The Mekong & life in general flow at an age-old rhythm; welcome to southern Vietnam charm & intriguing river-life. We were hungry on reaching My Tho so headed down to the river-front & Lac Hong (floating restaurant): Elephant Ear fish, for which the area is famous, with sticky rice prepared in a wonderful ball. The wonderful presentation reminds one of Vietnamese culture requiring the whole animal be placed on the table before eating - for example, whole chickens rather than parts of chicken to sunsequently be carved for eating : The view from the restaurant showing the new suspension bridge over to Ben Tre opened only last year: Our destination for the night was Vinh Long on the Co Chien river, or more particularly Hoa Ninh on an island across the Co Chien, one of the Mekong's many tributaries. It would be a rewarding 'home-stay', after the excitement of a ferry across: A homestay makes for some interesting encounters. Here our neighbour washed her hair in the river; she used soap/shampoo made from the fruit of mangroves. In days not so long ago Vietnamese women would boil pomello skins in which they'd wash their hair to keep it from becoming dry, before washing it in a juice made from a dark fruit similar to tamarin to keep it shiny & black: We were greated at 6am the next morning by the smiling faces of our skipper & guide who would take us by traditional boat to the famous Cai Be Floating Markets, one of the true drawcards of the region: Wholesalers displaying what each sells from long wooden poles hoisted above their boats sell to the retail trade: Pumkin on a pole: Whilst on the subject of boats - shipwrights in the region, where knowledge is simply passed down through the generations, are known to dismantle prized boats when they have had their day so as to be able to construct exact replicas in their place. It ensures a certain authenticity & you may well be looking at the exact replica of a boat that worked the area some 500 years before. It concerns me, however, that given the greatly improved transport infrastructure in the area with new highways & large suspension bridges & given the advent of supermarkets that these markets & the culture & lifestyle they represent are seriously threatened............see it while you can.