Yesterday we woke at 5.50am, which in itself is such an abnormal thing for me that I think my parents will be wondering if I’m on holiday or torturing myself.
By 7.30am we were on the Mekong in rowing boats.
These were not your average rowing boats – these had small Vietnamese ladies standing behind us on a platform with two oars supported by poles. They rowed using the full length of their bodies and arms, reminiscent of workout machines in gyms.
We rowed up the river to a Vietnamese Muslim settlement, but on the way we passed many river homes, including one family with 3 boys who appeared to live on a boat about 1.5 metres wide and 10 metres long.
The youngest waved at us and I looked at them. The mother was steering and rowing from the back. The oldest son was inside looking at what appeared to be a school book. The father was at the front of the boat, preparing to cast his net.
I’ve said many times that I love looking at old people because they have their loves written on their face, but this man was not old, and yet his hard, sun beaten life was etched in beautiful lines on his face.
I was too far away to get a photo, and a touch distracted I remember thinking that their lives, although brushing with ours as we waved and stared at each other over 10 metres of water – we with our bright yellow life jackets looking every bit the tourist, they in their worn clothing, washed by the river – how different our lives were.
Ten metres yet worlds apart.