On our arrival into Vietnam we were met by individual rickshaws in the village of Tan Chau. Rickshaws are two wheeled vehicles pulled by an rickshaw driver pedaling an attached bicycle. We each had individual rickshaws and our rickshaw drivers took us through the village where we could get a glimpse of the local life.
Tan Chau is well known for its silk production and particularly for its high quality black silk. We stopped at a traditional silk factory and got to see how they weave the silk. Of course, the opportunity to purchase silk was offered at the end of the tour. Back on the rickshaws we continued to a rattan factory. The rattan factory that we visited was quite small and employed about thirty people most of whom are family members.
The term factory is somewhat misleading. Most Americans envision factories as large warehouses with assembly lines and automation. This is not the case here at all. Most factories are family owned and the products, whether they are silk, rattan or other specialties, are made by hand or with the help of a manually operated loom.
After visiting the town we boarded small boats for a tour along Tan Chau's waterways. Nearly all of the communities along the Mekong rely on the river for their livelihood. Fishing is abundant as is rice production. The canals and the tributaries are somewhat similar to Louisiana's bayous. Tan Chau features floating fish farms, rice factories and you frequently see fisherman casting their nets hoping to catch fresh fish to sell at the market.
Before heading home our tenders stopped at a small village where we visited the home of one of the families. Throughout the village everyone greeted us with a wave and a "Hello" and the children came up to us to practice their English. The home that we visited had a fairly large living room / dining room area and two bedrooms. It was neat and perhaps a little staged but still gave a glimpse in to the village lifestyle. Five people lived in the house (the parents and three children). On our way back to the tender we were met by the children from the village who sang us the Vietnamese national anthem. We then headed back to the ship for lunch and a relaxing afternoon at the pool.