As I relax on the bow of our boat, rocking gently and waiting for the sun to fall from the sky, I have a moment to appreciate where I am.
Only two hours prior, I was greeted by a quaint wooden boat with peeling paint and a friendly face behind the wheel. The driver rose to take my hand as I stepped aboard and sat down beside the glassless window. Thick, sweet smelling air pressed my cheek as the engine gurgled and we ventured out.
Muddy embankments soon gave way to reeds as the mighty Mekong opened herself up to us. It was not long before we approached the rickety structures on the outskirts of the village, their once candy coloured paint now faded with sun and age.
Each house was loyally accompanied by a boat or two secured to the front porch. In a world without land, boats are the connection between places, and the bonds that tied this community together. I felt privileged to be a part of it, and trailed my hand in the water below. There was a distinct sense of community and stability, despite the lack of solid ground.
Family homes lit up like fireflies, casting their reflections onto the water’s surface. As our boat came closer, I could see in through the open doors and catch a glimpse of life on the Mekong: children sitting in a circle around the television in the living room, or sprawled across the front porch studying their homework. After all, it was a Thursday evening and the village school would be in session in the morning.
A local lady approached our boat with offerings of refreshments. Our driver explained that the local people have welcomed the increase in tourism with open arms for the vital income it provides in an area with very few jobs. Who was I to say no to a guilt-free beer?
I look down now, beer in hand, and take a swig. As I watch the sun set over the wider Mekong, I realise we can no longer see the shore. Our boat is accompanied by a scattering of others.
We are an appreciative audience, all holding our breaths as the sun takes the final bow on its glimmering water stage, fading to darkness.