Floating Market, Cần Thơ, Mekong Delta.

There are two floating markets near Cần Thơ in Southern Vietnam. The first market, Cai Rang, around 6 km from the town by boat, is the biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta. This is a busy wholesale market, with vegetable and fruit vendors indicating what they’re selling by attaching the item to a long pole above the boat. It’s best to arrive there by 6 am.

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Boat vendors, floating market, Can Tho, Vietnam

To get to the markets, make a booking the day before with a local tour company such as Mekong Official Tours Information Bureau, opposite the Ho Chi Minh statue in town, or organise it with one of the boat ladies at the Ninh Kiều pier in the town of Cần Thơ.

On the Hậu River, the bigger branch of the Mekong River.
Life on the Hậu River, the biggest branch of the Mekong River.

It’s best to take a small sampan, a small four person low-lying boat that can weave in and out of the water traffic at the market and navigate the narrow canals in the countryside. The boats are safe and the women are skilled pilots, though you may wish to check that they supply safety jackets as well. It’s nice to know they’re there, even if it’s too hot to wear them.

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Things get busy on the water at the floating markets near Can Tho.

You meet up with your guide just after 5 am, as it takes 45 minutes by boat to reach the first market. Take a few morning snacks for the journey or buy fruit and snacks on the river. There are many floating restaurants and small snack vendors en route. Usually the driver will peel and shape a sweet pineapple wedge for you, and the guide will supply you with a bottle of H2o for the trip. Our hotel made us a breakfast pack of filled baguettes and pastries, which I swapped with our guide for something more local and delicious.

Women boat vendors at Phong Điền market.
Women boat vendors at Phong Điền market.

We opted for a 7 hour tour on the water. This included Cai Rang and Phong Dien Markets, a trip up some canals to visit a farm, a visit to a rice paper and noodle making business, and a snake farm. The snake farm was the most disturbing feature of the trip. Huge pythons, kept in tiny cages, are force-fed, then tied up and massaged all day by snake farmers who walk up and down on their bodies, making their skin softer and more pliable to remove after they’re killed. The skins are dried and sold for fine leather. Avoid this visit at all cost.

skilled navigators
Skilled navigators of the Mekong.

Can Tho is four hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh City.  The bus company Phuong Trang has the largest number of services to Can Tho daily. There is a stop for 30 minutes in the large Phuong Trang highway service and restaurant point, which is huge and well supplied with all sorts of snacks and clean amenities. When you arrive in Can Tho, a shuttle bus will bring you to your final destination, if you have the address of your hotel ready. This is included in the price of your ticket. Cost from HCMC ( August 2016) is 100,000VND/$5.90 AU. The seats are comfortable, the bus is air-conditioned, the obligatory DVDs are not too intrusive, and the views of the Delta region and glimpses of Vietnamese country life are absorbing. I recommend the bus over a private car for this trip. The Phuong Trang bus company is in District 6, HCMC, a small taxi ride from the district 1 hotel area.

Our amazing guide for the day. Funny, affectionate and informative.
Our amazing guide for the day. Funny, affectionate and informative.

32 thoughts on “Floating Market, Cần Thơ, Mekong Delta.”

  1. Great pics! I came via the challenge post pingback can’t get mine to stick grrr, anyway your site is looking very professional, makes me feel like I need to do some work. Your water market photos are wonderful, I esp like the “busy” shot.

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    1. The photos were all rather poor – the morning light was grey and humid and the movement on the boat made it difficult. It’s always hard to get good light in the tropics. So I am pleased that you think they look ok. The busy shot was majorly edited.
      That’s annoying when the post doesn’t load into into the wordpress site. annoying. It will go there eventually.

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    1. Thanks Patrick. It’s a great trip. They used to do a trib by river from Can Tho to Pnom Penn in Cambodia but it has been cancelled. This would make me go back there. I am a little obsessed with the Mekong.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh Lord: this post really puts Vietnam first on my ‘to-do’ list: never mind about friends on a few other continents awaiting! Remember doing wonderful early morning canal trips to markets in Bangkok – obviously way back and nowhere as interesting tho’ mindbending then! Methinks people visiting soon should really take your advice to have an incomparable experience . . .

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      1. Yes, you’ve always been a tiger. The way I feel lately is the only boat I’ll be going on to see Vietnam is a 66,000+ tonner! Yes a cruise ship stopping all ports, OMG, but I did manage to board the slow canal boats in Norway and St Petersburg last year – required absolutely no energy – just sat there and stared at all the gold baroque buildings and wonders.

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  3. I thoroughly loved that tour but wonder if you encountered the “Lotto Lady” She was whizzing about in her small motor boat selling tickets to all the marketers. As a sideline she also served hot delicious coffee. Her voice is what I remember – it was so loud and squeaky she could stop traffic in Saigon!

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    1. Hahha, I came across quite a few lotto ladies in Vietnam. I also noticed some poorly clad young Spanish tourists abuse a Lotto Lady thinking that she was trying to con them for some motorbike parking money. Off they went, in a huff. I just sat under a shady tree and laughed.

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  4. You are a real traveler Francesca. What a very thorough description of getting to the markets and I love how deftly you tied it into the H2O theme 🙂 That python scene really did my head in.

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  5. A 7 hour tour on the water? You’re hardy! I love to get out and see the sight and much of the time, tours are the best way to sample the region of whats on offer but I think I’d balk at 7 hours. Duly noted about the snake farm.

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  6. The only way to visit these markets is with a lady with a boat, and a tour guide who speaks English. It is a personalised tour in a fairly remote district. Yes, I am hardy. You do a 7 hour tour or you don’t get to see anything at all.

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  7. Reading your posts back to back, I came here from Trump and I find your description of the snake farm eerily reminiscent of what capitalism and politics does to humanity: making us more pliable for when we die. Thanks for the warning.

    Liked by 1 person

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