Story: Thien An
Photos: Hai Au club
Can Tho is known for its hospitable locals and lush orchards of tropical fruits
Located along the west bank of the Hau River, where the soil is rich and fertile, long ago, Can Tho was well-known among the Six Provinces of Southern Vietnam for its “white rice and clear waters”. This city is increasingly charming thanks to its orchards, which are lush year round. The old saying “all who come here wish never to leave” remains true today.
People don’t want to leave because of Can Tho’s special appeal, and the abundance of juicy and delicious fruits filling the trees and store rooms, bound for big cities. The region’s fruits are celebrated in Vietnamese proverbs and folk songs, such as: “No mango tastes better than a Cao Lanh mango/ Nothing beats a Can Tho star apple”. In Phong Dien, adjacent to O Mon, star apples are found everywhere, grown by every household. This fruit starts to ripen at the end of the year, around December, through the Lunar New Year. There are many varieties of star apple in Can Tho, such as green, purple, canarium, Bac Thao, four-season, and pink, to name a few.
Once the rice granary, now transformed into the fruit bowl of Southern Vietnam, Can Tho boasts a multitude of fruits that induce cravings when their names are mentioned. These includes durians, said to “smell like hell and taste like heaven”, and often dubbed the “king of tropical fruits”. Nowhere else is like Can Tho, where durians sell for just VND40,000-50,000 per kilo in the orchards during durian season, then fetch VND100,000 per kilo in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. Yet to welcome visitors, Can Tho people may price the fruit at just VND20,000 per kilo. Visitors rip the fruit open right in the orchards and stuff themselves, then return the seeds. This reveals the hospitality and generosity typical of Mekong Delta people.
Along with delicious fruits, the orchards in Can Tho are ideal spots for tourists, pleasing both their stomachs and eyes during the dreamy fruit seasons. When Burmese grape and langsat trees ripen they delight visitors. Langsat trees are full of pretty golden fruit. Burmese grapes are also outstanding in terms of appearance and taste. The varieties found in Can Tho often stem from Ha Chau (in Phong Dien) and are known as the most delicious type, besides Ba Phuoc, Mien Duoi and green Burmese grapes. With a pleasantly sweet and sour taste, this fruit is addictive after just one bite.
As the Lunar New Year draws near, Can Tho welcomes the mandarin orange season. Rows of trees are neatly planted, separated by little ponds that provide enough space for tourists to take pretty photographs as they pass by on boats. No trip to explore the fruit orchards of Can Tho is complete without sampling local dishes that carry the flavors of the wilderness: grilled snakehead fish, roasted field mice, and even a plate of mangosteen and pig’s ear salad served with fish sauce. Listen to cai luong country music while sitting in the middle of the orchard and enjoying your lovely meal. When leaving Can Tho, travelers feel totally satisfied and exclaim: “Oh dear, how delightful!”