Mekong Eyes: An Intriguing Mekong River Tradition

The Mekong River is a fascinating stretch of water in Vietnam. It is Asia’s sixth-largest river, spanning over 2.7 thousand miles. Boats are a valuable and traditional form of transportation on the Mekong River. An intriguing tradition associated with these boats is Mekong Eyes.

Mekong Eyes are boats that have eyes painted to the front of them. These come in all shapes and sizes but are mostly black and white. They are of great cultural significance and are something that will impress you when you see them.

Travelers who visit the Mekong Delta can see this tradition first-hand. Here’s everything you need to know about Mekong Eyes.

Why Do Boats Have Eyes in the Mekong Delta?

This intriguing tradition has many purposes.

The first purpose is practical. Many boat owners use it to indicate the direction that they are going in while on the water. Its eyes guide other boaters in the right direction to avoid accidents. They also navigate sailors back home safely during storms and heavy rain because boats are typically small with no gear.

Mekong Eyes are also for artistic representation. They exemplify both the boat owner’s and the boat’s personalities. Most of these eyes have a pleasant and welcoming expression, but there is some variation in their shape and color. Most vessels have black and white eyes.

They also have symbolic and religious meanings that the next section will cover in more depth. 

The Symbolic Meaning of Mekong Eyes in Mekong River

Mekong eyesFishermen who own boats in the Mekong Delta become very fond of them. Many people live on their boats, so it is an integral part of their lives. 

Boats are more than just water vessels here. They are beings with souls.  Fishermen believe they are like fish and need eyes to see where they are going. 

Additionally, legend says that these eyes can see deep into the water to find schools of fish. While gentle, the discerning eyes are fierce enough to protect the people on the boat from monsters looking for trouble.  It also represents good fortune, looking out for the people who are on the boat.

Regardless of what it symbolizes to each boat owner, it is a vital tradition typical of the Mekong Delta region.

Eye Bathing Ceremonies

A traditional way to christen the new eyes on the boat is by performing an eye bathing ceremony.  The boat owner and an officiant typically attend. Before participants paint the new eyes on the boat, they make an offering.

This offering includes seasonal fruits, an Ixora Coccinea flower (which signifies good luck and prosperity to the boat owner), purifying water, and incense. The officiant uses the flower to splash water onto the boat. Once the offerings and ceremonial procedures have concluded, the officiant paints the new eyes. This ritual is to bring the boat good luck and keep the crew wide awake and safe.

mekong boats

Mekong Cruise Tours

The best way to see this fascinating tradition and immerse yourself in Mekong River culture is by taking a tour. More Fun Travel offers private Mekong Cruise Tours to the bustling floating markets as well as the untouched areas of the Mekong Delta to witness the stunning scenery, and experience rural life.

If you’re interested in learning more, feel free to contact us.