CAN THO, CAPITAL OF THE MEKONG DELTA
Capital of the Mekong Delta and rice granary of South Vietnam, Can Tho is an excellent base to discover the fascinating Mekong Delta region, its hectic local life on the arms of the river, the surprising floating markets, its typical villages and its hypnotic countryside with huge rice fields as far as the eye can see.
Discover the floating markets of Can Tho
This is often the reason why travelers go to Can Tho: to discover its extraordinary floating markets, typical of the Mekong Delta region. The capital of the delta is home to no less than three floating markets, each of which will tickle your curiosity.
- The floating market of Cai Rang is the most famous and largest in Can Tho and even in the whole Mekong Delta. It is located on the Cai Rang River, near the Cai Rang Bridge, about 6 kilometres from downtown Can Tho. The British tourist magazine Rough Guide made no mistake and recently selected it as one of the ten "most attractive floating markets in the world". Cai Rang floating market has also been recognized as a national intangible cultural heritage site in the year 2016. Every day, before dawn, hundreds of boats of different sizes gather to trade. Can Tho market is a wholesale market, specializing in the sale of fruits and vegetables. Many small producers come to sell their crops to wholesalers who will then go elsewhere in the Mekong Delta. Some small retailers also come with their small boats to stock up and then sell the goods in the surrounding villages. You can tell what the boats are selling by the merchandise hanging from the pole at the bow. You'll explore this incredible floating market in a motorized sampan as you'll sneak through the hustle and bustle.
- The Phong Dien floating market is located about 20 kilometres southwest of Can Tho. It is smaller but has the advantage of being less touristy than the one in Cai Rang and motor boats are rarer than elsewhere. On your way to the floating market of Phong Dien you will be surprised to see the daily hustle and bustle of the boats covered with fruits, vegetables and other food and handicrafts. A local commercial tradition that is still very much alive despite the new infrastructures.
- The floating market of Phung Hiep is located on the eponymous river 30 kilometres south of the city of Can Tho. It is a beautiful market, typical of the delta where one crosses boats loaded with watermelons, melons, carrots, sweet potatoes, fruits, or onions. But the market of Phung Hiep is above all famous for the sale of reptiles of all kinds and especially snakes which will be then resold for the majority to restaurateurs who have made it their speciality.
Visit of the old house of Binh Thuy
The old Binh Thuy house is one of the few French houses in the Mekong Delta that is still intact. This superbly preserved bourgeois house was built in 1870 by the grandfather of the current owner, who wished to devote a cult to his ancestors. This typical Mekong Delta residence, surrounded by a beautiful garden of almost one hectare, was also used as a set for the filming of the film "L'Amant" by Jean-Jacques Annaud, an adaptation of the novel by Marguerite Duras who lived in the Mekong Delta, in Sadec.
Can Tho, an exciting destination
Discovering the floating markets is certainly the main tourist attraction of Can Tho, but its surroundings are well worth exploring as there are many curiosities to discover.
+ Visit the land-based markets such as An Binh market which offers its visitors an animation as well as a great variety of seafood, turtles, snakes or fish which has nothing to envy to the floating markets. It is a possibility to eat there to taste some of the culinary specialties of the region.
+ Boat trip to appreciate the superb scenic heritage of Can Tho. As you weave your way through the zig zag of canals and arroyos drowned by dense vegetation, you have a front row seat to observe local life and appreciate the villages on stilts.
+ Biking in the countryside through the huge expanses of rice fields and feasting on tasty tropical fruits in the numerous orchards.
+ Discover the rich local handicrafts: family workshops of coconut sweets making, handicraft manufacture of rice leaves and noodles, wooden objects, basketry, pottery etc...
+ Discover a religious heritage as surprising as it is varied: Vietnamese, Khmer and Chinese churches, pagodas and other caodaïst temples with bright and unreal colours.
+ Staying overnight in a local's house is possible in Can Tho and is an excellent opportunity to immerse yourself in the local culture.
+ Eating at Can Tho's night market to mingle with the locals and to discover some local culinary specialties such as the Vietnamese banh xeo pancake, elephant-eared fish or the beautiful delta shrimp grilled with pepper.
Best season to visit Can Tho:
It is best to visit Can Tho between November and April during the dry season. Don't worry, during the rainy season, the storms are intense but brief and the sun comes back quickly!