Xin chào! (Hello!) We awakened this morning to a beautiful sunrise while we were anchored midstream on the Mekong. Soon after sunrise The Jahan started to putt along and we began the morning with a tai chi class on the deck of the boat. It was a peaceful and wonderful way to enjoy the rising sun and the start to the day. Our first excursion today was to the district of Cái Bè. Here, our tender toured around the floating market where we saw boats filled with food for sale. Shoppers travel from boat to boat to buy their food. At the tip of a long pole sticking straight up on the front of each vendor’s boat shows what that vendor specializes in (turnips, for example, would be hung from the pole if the boat sold turnips). It was fascinating to see the teeming market in the water. Further into the market, the village appeared more, with homes and businesses built on bamboo stilts over the water. In a sense, it seemed somewhat Venetian. Our tender soon docked at a small dock in the village and we witnessed some local food vendors creating some of their cooked goods for sale. First, we watched how puffed rice treats are made. The rice was puffed, or popped, in a large iron wok filled with Mekong River sand. The sand was then sifted from the puffed rice and then mixed with tapioca noodles, palm sugar syrup, and onion greens. This is then pressed into a very large rectangular pan, then cut into single servings like Rice Krispies. The result was a sweet and savory version of that American treat. Within that same area, they were fermenting rice with yeast and creating rice liquor. Here’s the still, the product of which Clint sampled (if you can believe that). He said it was about 92 octane! We then saw some coconut candy being made and got to taste that, as well. It was very sticky, but also quite tasty! Finally, we watched as rice paper – used for spring rolls – was made. It was incredible how the woman spread the rice water over a hot stone and then, with a long wooden spatula, peeled it away and hung it to dry. On the way back to The Jahan, our tender passed through many areas that afforded a glimpse into local life … After lunch back on The Jahan, we ventured out on the local tenders again, this time to visit a small island village that is supported financially by the cruise line. Other cruise lines on the Mekong don’t visit this village and we were admonished not to provide any handouts to the villagers. They want to encourage the young villagers to stay in school and not come to meet the boat when it comes to town each week and ask for handouts. Instead, the cruise line donates a portion of money to the local school, temple, and general community life and the members of the community seem genuinely pleased that the boat and all 52 of us visited. They also brought two of their town’s elders to the temple to tell us more about themselves, their village, and their daily life. It was an intriguing look into life off the beaten path. We feel so grateful to be able to be here and to see the happiness, the positive outlook, and to feel the genuine sense of welcome here in this land that was ravaged by war. The people, who have very little, seem to have a much better joy of life than most people you might meet on a daily basis in the West. The country seems to be modernizing quickly and we also feel glad that we’ve been able to come here before things change too much and there are Starbucks at every corner. Tonight, the cruise line is giving the two of us a private dinner on the boat. Tomorrow, we’ll start with tai chi again and then we’re off to explore some more before we cross the border mid-day into Cambodia.