Can Tho, in southwest Vietnam and about 170 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City, is the fifth largest city in Vietnam and the most populous city in the Mekong Delta.
Our stay in this city on the banks of the Hau River, was basically to visit the floating market of Cai Rang, but once there we discovered that the Old Capital of the West, had many more attractions than the floating market.
WHAT TO DO IN CAN THO:
FLOATING CAI RANG MARKET
Over 100 years old, the Cai Rang market is the best known market in the Mekong Delta. Every day at dawn, dozens of Vietnamese gather there with their boats, boats and even canoes full of fruits, vegetables, rice and other products.
The smaller boats usually carry supplies from one place to another or do the household shopping. While the large ones usually take their products to the local markets or sell them directly there.
Cai Rang buyers
Buyers looking for fresh products.
In order to know what each boat sells, they have a rather curious system in which the sellers place a pole in the bow (bei cây) where they hang a sample of the products they sell (beo treo), this way it is visible in the distance and facilitates trade. So you know, if you want a pineapple in the morning, just look at which boat there is a pineapple hanging from the bei cây and head for it. 😉
Example of bei cây and beo treo
In this market you will also find other boats that offer food such as: Pho Soup, Tieu Hu Noodles, delicious Vietnamese coffee and other types of drinks.
Although in recent years it has become a fairly crowded tourist attraction and is full of boats with tours, the market still has that essence of yesteryear and its activity has not changed much, so it is a very authentic and beautiful experience to see.
Cai Rang Canoe
Canoe with products to sell
FLOATING MARKET OF PHONG DIEN.
Although much smaller than Cai Rang, this market, which we can find a few kilometres away from the first one, also has a special charm. Every morning, small boats gather here so that locals and merchants can make their transactions. It is not usually as crowded as the previous one and many tours pass directly from visiting it.
Phong Dien Market
Phong Dien Market
HOW TO VISIT THE MARKET OF CAI RANG AND PHONG DIEN
In Can Tho you will find many agencies that organize the tour to the market of Cai Rang, most are medium sized boats with a capacity of about 20 people.
Hau River Channels
Raid on the canals of the Hau River
We chose to walk along the river banks where it is full of Vietnamese with their boats offering for a few dongs (16 ? both) a more personalized tour, since with them you can negotiate if you want to just visit the market of Cai Rang or like us extend the day on the river and also visit the market of Phong Dien, navigate the internal channels and make a stop to walk along its banks and visit a fruit garden. The tour we hired started at 5.30am and lasted until noon. In addition, our boatwoman (a woman’s charm although she will not speak any English) bought some delicious and refreshing pieces of fruit from us in both markets which she prepared for us to taste right there.
Cai Rang Pineapples
Devouring some delicious pineapples bought at Cai Rang
NG TEMPLE OR CHÙA ÔNG.
In the centre of the city and just in front of the promenade we find this small Chinese temple which is more than 100 years old. Inside, the atmosphere is impregnated by the smell of dozens of incense spirals and the bustle of local people making their prayers.
Without a doubt you have to be careful because it goes quite unnoticed by the different buildings that surround it and the motorcycle parking outside. It was quite a discovery for us.
Exterior of the Ong Temple
Inside Ong Temple
Inside Ong Temple
PAGODA NAM NHAO TEMPLE BIN THUY.
The Nam Nha Pagoda was built in 1844 and has a rather curious architectural style, although its interior is much more interesting for its wood carvings. In addition it’s a building with history since it was the neuralgic center of the student protests against the French at the beginning of the 20th century.
The temple is located on the outskirts as it is about 5 kilometers from the center of Can Tho, and entry is free.
Bin Thuy Temple
Exterior Bin Thuy Temple
Bin Thuy Temple inside
Figure inside Bin Thuy Temple
Every night the city centre is transformed into an impressive night market. Divided in two different streets, we find many clothes and shoes stands, all of them addressed to the local public, so do not expect to find souvenirs, for that you will have to go just in front, in the old Ninh Kieu Pier.
Ninh Kieu Pier
On the other hand, in the parallel street we find the night market of food, much more interesting and full of delicious food. Here you can taste all kinds of local food and an endless number of motorcycles queuing up (McAuto type) to order and eat on the promenade.
Can Tho Night Market
Wide variety of kebabs at the Night Market
If we can give you any suggestions, try the Bánh Tráng Nướng (or Vietnamese pizza). It has nothing to do with the pizza we all know except for its shape (although in many places they serve it folded calzone-style). It is based on a rice pancake and the ingredients may vary depending on the different stands where it is prepared.
Bánh Tráng Nướng
Bánh Tráng Nướng or Vietnamese Pizza
CAN THO BRIDGE.
This is the most expensive bridge in the history of Vietnam, and a milestone in the development of the Merkong Delta. The imposing Can Tho Bridge with its 2.75 kilometer long and 170 meters high is among the 10 longest in the world. In addition, at night it is filled with colorful lights that can be seen from the city and are a spectacle.