Houses in the Mekong Delta



Houses in the Mekong Delta

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Home to thousands of people who live not only beside the river, but on it, the Mekong Delta is known for two of Vietnam’s most distinct forms of houses – stilt and floating. While stilt houses line the steep banks, villages of floating homes occupy the river, completely independent of land. Resting on tall bamboo poles, the stilt houses are firmly anchored to the ground. Floating houses, in contrast, sail adrift on pontoons or empty oil drums. Both types of houses are often connected to the shore by a monkey bridge – a crossing made of wooden poles tightly tied together, with the barest of footholds.

Stilt Houses

Built to accommodate the annual Mekong River floods, stilt houses were traditionally made of wood, but are now increasingly built of corrugated iron. They usually comprise one or two spacious rooms, and open out onto a deck. At low tide, the house is accessed via a ladder from the floor to the bank, while at high tide, boats sail right up to the door.

Monkey bridges, arched wooden structures, rarely feature any kind of safety railing. They are rickety, but delta people have used them for centuries.

Floating villages, complete with homes, shops, and even industrial buildings, can cover several acres of the Mekong’s waters. Without permanent anchors, it is easy to move house when opportunities are better downstream.

Thatched roofs were the norm in the delta, but corrugated metal is preferred now. In addition to being cooling, it lasts much longer.

Fish Traps

A unique feature in many floating houses is the fish trap – a covered hole in the floor, under which is suspended a large net made of woven strips of bamboo or steel mesh. People of the delta have used this method to trap fish for generations, and today, utilizing scientific techniques, have begun using these traps as incubators for fertilized fish eggs. Fish caught in traps are kept until they are full grown and ready to eat.

Daily activities on the floating houses include everything from fishing and shopping to growing herbs and raising hens. Residents live their entire lives on the water, rarely setting foot on land.

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