An Giang: a flood of memories about a flooding season

 In the Mekong Delta province of An Giang, the once regular, much-awaited flooding season has become a cherished memory. A photo collection by a native shows why.

The photo collection was compiled by An Giang native Huynh Phuc Hau over several years.

Located along the upper branches of the Mekong River in Vietnam, An Giang is the first province in the Mekong Delta to welcome the annual flooding season, seen as a gift from heaven, bringing tons of fish into the paddy fields along with alluvial deposits to fertilize the next crop.

The floods usually came late July or early August and remained until November or even later, blessing the region with extraordinary fertility by deposit silt from upstream areas before flowing into the sea.

A boy goes fishing at sunset in Vinh Te Commune, Chau Doc Town.

Hau has been intent on spending time to capture the images of the busy yet peaceful life during the flooding season in his hometown, fearing that these are going to become rare scenes in the future.

A family leads their herd of cows back home on the banks of the Tha La Canal.

An Giang is famous for the Bay Nui Ox Race, part of traditional Sene Dolta Festival held by the local Khmer community to commemorate their ancestors, pray for the living, and strengthen community bonds.

The festival is held annually between Tinh Bien and Tri Ton districts, which neighbor Cambodia, in the eighth and ninth lunar months. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the event has not been held for the past two years.

Two men herd a flock of ducks on a flooded plain in Tinh Bien District.

A couple rows their boat to pick up white water lilies in Vinh Te Commune near the Cambodian border. The white water lilies are also called 'ghost flowers' because they only bloom at night.

Starting early in the morning, they travel by motorboat to the flooded fields to pick flowers and sell them, earning more than VND100,000 ($4.39) a day. Along with other aquatic resources, water lilies help people earn additional income during the flooding season.

A woman picks rau nhut (water mimosa) on Tra Su Canal in Tinh Bien District.

Water mimosa is a wetland plant with a taproot that attaches itself to the edges of water bodies such as rivers and banks. The plant is used to cook soup. It is also a common hotpot ingredient.

A woman picks dien dien or sesban flowers along the Vinh Te Canal in Chau Doc Town.

Sesban is a plant that commonly grows near ponds, rivers and dykes in the region and one which locals have incorporated into their diet. It has a unique aroma and subtle fatty taste.

Locals make a soup with the flowers, cooking them with different kinds of fish, including catfish and perch. They add tamarind to create a slightly sour taste.

Besides sesban flowers, the delicious Siamese mud carp is a gift that Mekong Delta residents gratefully accept during the flooding season. People flock to rivers and ponds to catch this fish and sell them.

Young Siamese mud carp have tender bones and meat. They are usually braised with coconut water and are a key ingredient in sour soups with sesban flowers.

A man leads his buffaloes through the Vinh Te Canal.

A fond memory: An old woman smiles as she bunches harvested water lilies on Vinh Te Canal.

"When I was passing by the canal, I saw this old woman with a bright smile next to the water lilies, so I stopped and asked her for a shot. A month later, when I returned to give her a photo, I learned that she had passed away," Hau recalled.

Sunset on Tha La reservoir in Chau Doc Town.

A gloriously colored afternoon on Tra Su reservoir in Tinh Bien District as a boy prepares to lead his herd of buffaloes home.

Hau said that as late as the first decade of the new millennium, the fields remained flooded after floods had retreated. The water only receded by the end of November, and it was the most productive season for the delta.

However, the flooding season is becoming a memory, Hau rued. As of early October this year, the season had not returned to the Mekong Delta. For several years now, the annual flooding has been late and deficient. Experts blame the worrying situation on the construction of a series of big dams on upstream Mekong worsened by climate change impacts.

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