Story: Anh Dung
Photos: Phan Hien, Nguyen Minh Duc, Le Bich

No visit to Can Tho is complete without an outing to the Cai Rang floating market

Most locals would agree that the Cai Rang floating market is the most popular tourist attraction in Can Tho, if not the entire Mekong Delta. Indeed, visiting this fertile land without an outing to the floating market means you have missed one of the region’s quintessential features.

Just two hours by plane from Hanoi, Can Tho feels distinctly tropical. Warm year round, this region has abundant sunshine. Thanks to the delta’s interlacing canals, the summers here are less muggy than those in the North, while the heat is less searing than in the Center.

Visitors to the floating market should set out when it’s still dark. The floating market is at its busiest from five to six am, when it remains cool. I boarded a small boat at Ninh Kieu Wharf. Gliding over the silver waves, I was mesmerized by the picturesque dawn of the Western Citadel. After 30 minutes, my boat reached the floating market. The Rear River was already full of boats laden with local specialties. Approaching the heart of the market, the boats all slowed down. Vendors passed slowly to show off their products. Visitors floated slowly past, watching the scene and choosing their favorite specialties. Big and small craft came and went, brightening the entire river. But despite the crowds, the river traffic flowed smoothly, following unwritten rules of compromise and good cheer. Everyone here seemed kind and generous. It was interesting to see local women dressed in bà ba tunics gently rowing their boats.

Products sold at the floating market include tropical fruits, vegetables, fresh foods and daily necessities. Boat owners display their merchandise from a bamboo pole. Planted at the prow of the boat, these bamboo poles are called “bẹo sticks”. Cai Rang floating market also boasts many food vendors, all of whom work on their boats. You can enjoy lots of popular and reasonably priced Southern foods, such as tapioca noodle soup and filtered cakes. If you come to Can Tho, be sure to spend a morning in this colorful floating market.