Mekong Delta Guiding Q&A (part 2)

Interacting with people you first meet is either very easy or very difficult, depending on group chemistry. But guiding is a special case: you meet people in a totally controlled context, where basically everything is set up. The things that trigger curiosity in customers are predictable. Yep, we will have FAQs for every area. Time to read customers’ mind.

What are FAQs for Mekong Delta?

Plantation & Agriculture


Customers can ask about ANY plant they see on the road and even though an honest “I don’t know” may gain points for authenticity, after several times it just becomes awkward, shows unprofessionalism and lack of preparation.

Below are plants of Mekong Delta we will encounter along the road. A purely linguistics matter. No need to collect those words ourselves. Let’s just do some searches

Source 1

Source 2

Aside from general plantation vocabulary, there are some plants that are typical for Mekong area which should be given more attention.

Looking from customers’ perspective, images that pop up in their mind about the area are: vast rice paddy fields, fruit gardens, floating villages. Our role is to go deeper and analize WHY the plantation landscape is like that, some typical plants in the area, HOW locals utilize the plantations (for different industries), HOW that even affect their personality and culture. In short, we analize the interdependent relation between nature/ plantation and people’s culture and daily lives in the area.

Same thing applies in other guiding areas.

  1. Agriculture in the area

Source: Viet Wikipedia


  • accounts for 30% of total Vietnam agriculture land.
  • 27% GDP of total Vietnam
  • 50% area of Viet rice plantation.
  • 30% of total Viet agriculture revenue.
  • 54% of Viet fishery.
  • Main rice exporting area of Vietnam.
  • Rices are planted mostly in An Giang, Long An, Dong Thap, Tien Giang.
  • Duck growing also develops in provinces of Dong Thap, Hau Giang, Bac Lieu, Soc Trang, Ca Mau.
  • Typical fuits: coconuts, rice, breast milk, watermelon, jack fruits, mangoes, durians, cacoa (used for chocolates)



1. Demographics

90% Viet, 6% Khmer, 2% Hoa, 2% Cham (Khmer) people. They live and work together in the same area, integrate and assimilate different characteristics to form a common Mekong Delta culture.

This forms the diversity of the area.

2. Personality

People here are mostly friendly, generous and brave. Why? When the first settlers come to Mekong area, the area is just vast wild jungle land. To conquer harsh nature conditions and live in harmony with nature, Mekong people need to adapt themselves, be resilient, generous and open.

The abundance of natural resources make Southern people in general and Mekong people in particular: easy going but short term thinking 7 unstrategic mindset (because there is no urgent need to save, things seem to be abundant all the time). People have a sense about season but do not really treasure time in general. To an extent, this is a drawback. The rate of education in this area ranks as one of the worst of Vietnam.

To be continued…















Mekong Delta Guiding Q&A (part 1)



Less than 100km away from Sai Gon, Mekong Delta is an interesting area with various things to discover. Whether informally taking friends around in their first time visit or being a professional tour leader for tour companies in the area, there are some common topics you can cover. The purpose is to blend general introduction with fascinating details along the road.

Know your audience’s expectations & knowledge


Putting experienced travelers who come to Mekong Delta many times before aside, most travelers just have a vague idea about Vietnam and Mekong in general. They tend to have a romantic visualization: abundant in vegetation, typical tropical land, heaps of fruit, interesting local guilds.

You can enrich your KYC (Know Your Customer) database by asking those questions:

  • Is this the first time you come to SEA/ Vietnam/ Mekong Delta?
  • How do you feel about the area (applied for return guests)?
  • Is there anything you find strange or irritating on your trip?
  • What other places have you been in Vietnam?
  • How long is your trip in total?

These questions can vary, aiming at knowing what customers already know, where they have been, their general impression as well as their concerns about the journey. It also helps you to set their expectations in an acceptable spectrum: not too low to still be excited & look forward, but not too high to be disappointed later.


A good briefing should put the destination in perspective. These information are general, covering: geography, history, population and some prominent facts. These facts and figures will help customers know why they should visit the area and not somewhere else.

Mekong pic

Some facts gotten from credited sites: Lonely planet, Wikipedia, Vietnamese history sites, guidebooks. Your customers may be very well-read and informed. Especially, some documentaries about Mekong area is a great source of knowledge.

Again, a general rule should be repeated: If the customers want to show what them know, go ahead, let them shine. Don’t try to force yourself and pretend to be a know-it-all.

Below are some facts gathered from Vietnamese and English Wikipedia.

Terminology (origin of Mekong name)

mekong river in Laos

Different countries name this river differently.

In China:  – Lan Cang Jiang – wavy river

In Laos & Thai: Menam Kong (by Laos & Thais people) as “mother river” – origin of the current international name.

In Cambodia: Either Mekongk (by Laos ethnic group here) or Tonle Thom (big river, Khmer language). In rainy season, the water flows back to Tonle Sap.

In Vietnam:

When Mekong flows to Viet area, it splits into 2 rivers called Tien Giang (former river) & Hau Giang (later river) & gather in Mekong Delta, after that it splits again into 9 smaller rivers. Therefore in Viet language it is called “Cuu Long” or “9 dragons”.

Myths (interesting stories)

Myths can be a great source of information, excellent for story telling.

(in research period he he)

General facts/ figures/ numbers

Only use numbers/ figures to illustrate a point. If not, it’s boring and not useful.


  • 12th worldly in length
  • Length: from 1200km to 1400km.
  • Half of the river flows in China territory. In Chinese territory it flows through very deep cliffs. When it flows out of China the water level is only 500m above sea level.
  • Flows changes in different seasons. (Disadvantage for waterway transportation but an advantage for rice planting)
  • Starting from Yunnan (China)
  • Crossing Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam.
  • Local name: Cuu Long (9 dragons)
  • Size: 39,000 square kilometres (the combined size of Texas and Arkansas- used for guests from US)
  • 36 bridges crossing the river built by different countries in the area.

History & culture timeline (if possible, turn it into a timeline infographic)

  • 1st century: Malaysian & Indian culture
  • 5th century: Khmer Kingdom
  • Due to difficulties in waterway transportation, different cultures along the river can not integrate.
  • 16th century: The influence/ discovery of the West: 1950 – The first Portugese explorer. (for religion spreading & trading)
  • 19th century: French influence ( after colonization of Saigon in 1861 & imposing Cambodia in 1863). In this period it becomes part of Indochina.
  • 1893: Indochina was set up. But during this period, expeditions by French made them realize that Mekong is too rough for waterway system.
  • After independence from France, the delta area officially becomes part of Vietnam.



To the West of HCMC.

Trinagular shape.

Comprising of Phu Quoc.

Physical landscape: lat flood plains in the south, a few hills in the north and west.

(caued by tectonic transformation 50 million years ago)

In the past (Holocene area) water flowing to both South China Sea & Gulf of Thailand. Now only to South China Sea.

Forest coverage: 7,7 %


A giant Mekong catfish caught by 2 Thai fishermen.

the world’s largest inland fishery

25 percent of the global freshwater catch and provides livelihoods for at least 60 million people.

second only to the Amazon River in terms of fish biodiversity

st 1,100 freshwater species

Many rare animals: Irrawaddy dolphin, giant freshwater stingray ( up to 1,300 pounds), the Mekong giant catfish.



Population: 17,33 million people (2011)

Majority: ethnic Viet.

Khmer area (due to history, formerly part of Khmer area)

Hoa (Chinese Vietnamese population) in Tra Vinh & Soc Trang.

Most children go to HCMC and other big cities for work, so the demographic rate is quite low.

Contemporary concerns, projects & Climate changes

A good presentation should not miss the contemporary sociology-politics big picture which is happenning.


Mekong river for survival


A river of conflict. 6 countries share the river with different needs & priorities for its people.

  • Population growth
  • Deforestation
  • Sewage discharge into water.
  • Pollution from agriculture and industrial sources.
  • The Mekong is a case study in hydro-politics and Asian water security.



  • xay-thuy-dien-tren-song-mekongviet-nam-anh-huong-nang-ne_2700166
  • Current situation: 15 dams in China and 15 dams in Laos, Thailand & Cambodia.
  • Affect the flow of fertile soil and the waterflow downstream, affecting the water level of Tonle Sap, agriculture and fishing industry.
  • Affect to Vietnamese community in Mekong Delta in particular: electric dams will turn 55% of water downstream into lakes, which changes the eco nature of the river, decrease of swamps, changing the immigration path and habitat of water animals.
  • What is Vietnam doing to cope with this situation: an estimated amount of 130 billion VND (nearly 6 million USD) is considered for research to present Mekong mutua organization. The plan was devised in December 2015.











Nationalism is inevitable


Upon deleting buried trash in my feed, I found this article again.

3 years ago I was angry with the article. Now I just laugh it off.

If I detach my identity from Vietnam, would the article trigger any feeling in me? Definitely not.

If I attach my identity with Vietnam as part of nationalism, should I be angry either? Probably not.

A personal opinion should not be taken personally.

However, there is one thing I know for sure: no matter how rational & neutral I try to be, nationalism always leaves a trace in my heart, making all observations biased. Home is a concept to be nostalgic about, when we get beaten by harsh life. I know I am welcome here. If VN is good, I will be proud, if VN is bad, I will try to be a tiny positive change agent. I know many are conscious and willing to be positive change agents as well.

The only people I cry for are my dear people in this country, and rarely anyone else. Not because they are better. Just because they are part of my root, part of my bedrock, the ones who share the same privileges or same struggles.

Running away is easy. Especially when a better material life is not what I am craving for.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Làng cổ đường Lâm

Làng cổ Đường Lâm quả là thú vị :X. Dù đã mở cửa cho du lịch từ lâu nhưng không khí không nhuốm mùi thương mại và hầu như 100% các ngôi nhà đều được giữ nguyên trạng, xinh xắn, yên bình và sạch sẽ. Các khu hàng nước chè với chiếc chõng tre và vài ba chiếc võng, bên này là một cụ ông tóc bạc phơ, bên kia là cụ bà mải miết với món chè lam thơm dịu sẵn sàng kể cho bạn tất tần tật lịch sử của làng. Ngồi lâu chán thì có thể thuê xe đạp lượn sang các làng bên cạnh. Khác với Mai Châu ngày càng biến chất, mình tin Đường Lâm sẽ phát triển theo hướng bền vững trong nhiều năm nữa. Xứng đáng là 1 weekend hideaway tuyệt vời.

Một điều làm mình hơi bức xúc là chỉ có 20% số tiền vé được chia cho dân làng, vậy nên các bạn nếu có đến đó thì đừng tiếc 1 chút tiền mua quà quê cho các cụ nhé. Món chè lam và khế ngọt tuyệt đỉnh :X. Nhưng kẹo dồi nổi tiếng của làng thì hơi thất vọng #>#.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

P/S: Nên đến đó 1 mình hoặc 2 mình. Đi phượt ồn ào k hợp vs Đường Lâm chút nào.

A new year trip in Lan Ha bay

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

After a wonderful trip to start new year in Lan Ha bay, there are some things I want to remember

1. Prepare

A few hours for logistics, but it actually takes 12 years to learn language and 2,5 years to get some experiences. Such a long time to be comfortable and natural in this profession (or any kind of job I guess). I used to be burnt out by enthusiasm. Not anymore.

That’s why I am not very excited about interns. So eager about transforming into sb else, they r like “Can u give me some formulas, guidelines, etc?”

Time. Work. Constant work. That’s the “formula”.

The funny thing about experience spectrum: the more naive you are, the more eager you become. And with customer service jobs, sometimes it pays off. That’s why tour company like new blood. New blood or interns always go out of their way to deliver and prove. In return, employers motivate by lavish compliments. Why not? Lavish compliments don’t cost a thing.

And that’s exactly what new ppl crave for: appreciation.

They can TAKE ADVANTAGE of your enthusiasm if they can. That’s it in business. But eventually, If you are good, you stay. If not, you are out.

Sometimes it’s not about being good but being suitable. Another complicated story. Just because we are humans, unpredictable animals.

2. Expect nothing

Weather can be bad and guests can be demanding. And it’s fine.

Anytime there are some people you can’t handle, you learn st to approach next time.

3. Make the most of surprises.

Don’t promise surprises (what u can’t control or surely deliver). If it comes, cool, ride with it.

4. Know you role.

Things happen for a reason: cash from customers, teamwork. I am part of a chain and I don’t overrate my role.

However, in interactions, just be “there”. Forget about real drives behind things. Just be there as a person to listen, share and observe.

Give people space. Be there when it’s necessary. Stay away when it’s not.

5. Know your privileges and enjoy it

Sure work can be great. Because Why not? 😉