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Triptychs of Strangers #29: The highly recommended Mekong Expert - Ho Chi Minh City

see all 29 triptych portraits here


About this shot

After I spend 4 days in the countryside of the Mekong Delta, Ho Chi Minh City was a great surprise. I loved the place for having wide streets, more than 10° degrees and yes traffic lights.


I was striving through the let's call it city-centre of Ho Chi Minh City on my last day in Vietnam. I met our stranger in front of Municipal Theatre, he was sitting on a bench reading and drinking iced green tea.


About this stranger

I'd like to introduce you to Mambo. He is 24 years old and lives in a village in the Mekong Delta.


He was not too enthusiastic about Ho Chi Minh City. In his humble opinion a far too noisy, big, busy and unresting place. If it wasn't for his mission he wouldn't be here that often.


And he - as a self described sometimes silent type - rather seeks respite in an oasis of calm, natural harmony and peaceful life:

The Mekong Delta. He likes to invite you all on a trip starting with a free drink and your own Non La (that traditional conical hat) on riverboats for an excursion across small less touristic river branches of the Mekong. Through islands covered with lush flora and small rural communities.


You will have the opportunity to visit floating markets and stay overnight at a local house. You will also learn how they produce coconut candy, honey tea, rice noodles and of course rice wine (be careful here). This is just a selection of his ideal of a perfect trip through the Mekong ;-)


Already pretty much for one or two days? I am pretty sure he will always find the right time for you to take a rest. I would always recommend to take a nap in a hammock, they are part of most restaurant's inventory in the south of Vietnam.


No doubt, Mambo is a great tourist guide, even though it might take him another two years to finish studying tourism in Ho Chi Minh City. "I won't be like other tourist guides, I prefer only small groups and individual private tours. I have a lot more passion than others but I would never work myself to death. I always needed time to give myself some rest … and so I will do in the future"


His family is not rich but luckily he is the only son out of five who has been able to study.


Mambo is into water sports and he had a quite active past as a swimmer. But studying and working to be able to finance all this kept him away from this to long.


He also loves to read and the book he is holding in the middle is his favorite novel The Quiet American by Graham Greene - a story about friendship, love and war in Indochina situated in Saigon and the Mekong Delta. I didn't read it myself, but how this story takes it's time and describes the tension years before the vietnam war started.


Back to the life in the Mekong: most of the things here are done not by car, bike on foot, but by boat. And that's why this is the perfect place for Mambo. He suffers from Polio and is palsied from hip to foot. Polio is caused by a virus which can be spread from person-to-person primarily through faecal contamination of food and water. It affects mainly children under five years of age, in his case when he was two years old.


But as far as he has come already shows us how he is capable to overcome any obstacles. How can we even speak of a handicap here?


"Who else can our stranger #29 be than The highly recommended Mekong Expert"


And I have his email … just in case you like a good tourist guide.


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Taken on January 8, 2012