Family trip in Vietnam - Episode 2: Cai Rang Water Opera
Kathleen Brown, her husband John and their two adopted children, Peter Quang and Claire Xuan, are touring around Vietnam during their Christmas holiday. Kathleen is a long-time television producer and /media consultant for humanitarian agencies and her husband, John, a professional photographer. Every couple of days, they will post a story along with photos on their travels and adventures.
We encounter the dragons, yet again for an early morning visit to the floating market of Cai Rang in Can Tho.
Water becomes market square, boats transform into shops, stores and trading posts where buyers and sellers enact parts in a production of immense drama.
It’s water opera in technicolor, 3D and surround sound. And we have front row tickets for a very special performance.
Pineapples, turnips, melons, durian, coconuts and every kind of vegetable grown in the Delta are sold from boat to boat. Many boats feature a bow painted with dragon eyes of red, black and white; many bows are gaily decorated with flower bunches to show respect to Neptune, the God- King of the sea says our guide.
She tells us that many people on the water are superstitious and only have dogs, sparrows or small songbirds on board their craft. Cats, in particular, are not welcome as they may bring bad luck or peril along the journey.
The choreography of the water opera is a sight to behold as tourist boats slip in and around the merchant boats while fruits and vegetables are passed, bagged, loaded and unloaded, bought and sold. Smaller craft weave about the market selling refreshments – durian, bananas and sliced pineapple pops as well as cokes and coconuts.
Some intrepid tourists even board the market boats which are rafted up together, some four across, and these visitors almost appear to take walk-on parts in the show.
From a short distance away as I see it the tourists appear as if they’re marauding pirates boarding ships laden with treasures of the delta bounty.
Ahn, our guide, reports that each boat is allowed by local authority to stay for several days or just until most of its hold sells - then they depart making room for other craft, other market boats and other actors in this remarkable water opera.
This Cai Rang water opera is a show whose run never ends and reviews are a smash hit with even the toughest critics – namely, my children. Claire calls it, “way cool” and Peter gives it a “thumbs up”!
That’s high praise from two Vietnamese-American kids and it doesn’t get much better than that – unless, of course, there’s an electronic game called Water Opera Ninjas. Hey, now there’s an idea...
Writer: Kathleen Brown
Other articles written by Kathleen: