“I am building a pool for my son, right on the Mekong river. He very much love to jump into the river everyday.” (Nam, 40, Vietnam)
Looking for quiet and fresh air, I escaped Saigon and took the bus to Vinh Long, three hours away. A small town on the Mekong river, Vinh Long is known for its home stays, so I booked the highest rated one.
After crossing the river on a ferry, and walking one km on an uneven concrete path, I arrived at the Mekong Riverside Homestay. A shirtless man lying in a hammock checked me in.
He was Nam, the owner. Two years ago he bought this flooded piece of land, raised it one meter, and started building the first of ten bamboo bungalows. He was inspired by his grandfather, who had lived in a bamboo house that lasted 30-40 years with “no problems.”
My curiosity was piqued. Who was this man who built everything with no construction experience? Who spoke such fluent English?
Two nights later over beers, I learned more about Nam. He had grown up poor on An Bình (the location of the homestay, across the river from Vĩnh Long); as a child, his father was imprisoned for four years after the war. Nam ate rice and tapioca for years, and would fry lychee seeds to make “chocolate” treats.
Sometimes the river was full of fish, which his father taught him to catch. “After the rain, the river is muddy and the fish can’t see good. That’s when you lay your trap.”
After high school, Nam tried out a variety of jobs: cutting hair, fixing computers, making gold rings, and driving boats. The only one he really enjoyed was the latter, boating visitors around the Mekong. After getting married and having two kids, he started his latest “job,” building a 10 bungalow homestay, full of flowers, hammocks and fruit trees.
When I asked him about his perfect day, Nam responded:
“I am building a pool for my son, right on the Mekong river. He very much love to jump into the river everyday.”
Maybe he didn’t understand me, but that was his answer and it seemed fitting. I left inspired by Nam’s story and his homestay on the river. Isn’t that all we can do? Dream and build something with our two hands? Take an abandoned land and build an oasis for visitors and a pool for our son?
Stay with Nam and his family: