Every year now, the river enters Cần Thơ twice a day for a few days in the weeks following the equinox.
With their cohort of drama and the tremendous cost they let society bear, the floods may be just history in the making: they are caused by so many factors, some global and out of reach, others we can do something about. Or can we, really?
Floods in general are not necessarily bad, especially seasonal floods from a river. They bring alluvium from upstream, and deposit it in fresh strata over the land, and the days of high water usually bring much wanted life-carrying capacity to the land of a delta. Indeed, without floods there would actually be no Mekong delta. Yet, the floods bear a cost in damaged property, in health and even in lost lives.
Shadows drift quietly through the market after nightfall.
They are burdened with large loads that hide them from the glare of street lights, and with the weariness of the day past.
Both loads are revealed as they glide past the lampposts, the earthly loads in colors much brighter than the immaterial ones. Bright yellow here, rich red there, have tinted forever their hands and their souls.
Where they lay their goods down on the pier, they stage them carefully. In the flicker of oil lamps, one can discern the main product of the village is rush mats. In another hour the market will be alive with buyers, on the road or even by boats, who wait til night to coast. Such is the quality of the mats of Định Yên.
The Mekong delta has been the stage of large canal works since the beginning on the 19th Century, well before the French arrived. In the 1850s, the Vĩnh Tế canal, between Tân Châu and Hà Tiên on the Gulf of Siam, was an established trading route to Thailand.
You can still navigate part of the Vĩnh Tế canal today.
I knew this was going to be the big night.
Tonight, it was not going to be a walk through a crowd in the dark, with mom holding my hand all the time: big sister Thi promised she would take me with her tonight. She said we would go on the river with Papy Thống on his tourist boat.
We'll go cast lanterns on the river.
A steamer named Bassac was already trading the Mekong in the 19th Century
The story of the River Shipping Company of Cochinchina had ups and downs and more or less moral times, but one thing they had right: Their boats were well adapted to their missions, for the better part. If the early launches to Laos were quick for that time, light enough to carry through Khône, those that navigated the lower Mekong were as well fit for that area.