One of the most interesting things about my Mekong trip was watching one country slowly merge into another. Vietnam’s Mekong delta felt very different to Yunnan province in China, where my journey started, but there were no dramatic changes as I travelled from one country to another, rather a series of gradual adjustments in culture and landscape, a blurring of the lines. The rice terraces in Yuanyang in Yunnan are very similar to those in northern Vietnam; the flat plains of southern Laos are identical to those over the border in eastern Cambodia. I ate Thai food in China, and Vietnamese food in Thailand. I visited an ancient Angkor temple in Laos and Lao looking temples in China. Borders have shifted over the years (and are still disputed in some regions) and people have migrated from one country to another, so there are Vietnamese communities in Laos, Khmer communities in Vietnam, Burmese communities in China. Cham Muslim villages can be found all along the lower Mekong.
So it was quite fitting that Tra Vinh in southern Vietnam, the southernmost point of my Mekong journey, was another example of this movement of cultures. Although located some way from the present day border with Cambodia, the town and surrounding countryside are home to a sizeable Khmer population, and a number of Khmer temples and monasteries. These pictures were taken in a couple of those temples. The monks I spoke to identified themselves as Khmer, but were also fluent in Vietnamese.
[Follow me on twitter (@jonsanwell). Or don’t. It’s up to you.]