Can Tho, on the Mekong Delta was my introduction to what would be a crazy and diverse three weeks in Vietnam. After crossing the border from Kampot in Cambodia, I decided to spend two days lazing in and around the Mekong Delta.
Although there are some amazing home stays that can be done on the Mekong Delta, and many of these are taken up by people who make two-three day trips from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), poor planning on my part, meant that I stayed in the city of Can Tho.
Can Tho is the most populated city within the Mekong Delta, and was much busier than I initially thought it would be.
Here, I learnt to deal with the crazy traffic (though, it wasn’t as crazy as the traffic in HCMC or Hanoi), and did a walking street food tour, which was my introduction to some of the amazing food I would later experience. During my tour I tried Nem Nuong (fresh pork rolls), Banh Cong (a traditional pie cake), and Di Map (sticky rice). This was booked through my hotel, and you pay whatever you feel the tour is worth. You can also book this tour online.
The Floating Markets of Can Tho
One of the main reasons for stopping off in Can Tho first, was to visit the floating markets. There are many floating markets in the Mekong Delta, but Can Tho is the largest.
I booked the from my hotel, and this cost US$20, for a 4 hour tour. They did offer longer tours for twice the price. What I later worked out, after booking and paying for the tour, was that if you wander down to the waterfront area in Can Tho, you can bargain prices with the locals for as little as $10.
My day started off very early; I was picked up at 5.15am, bundled into a taxi to the waterfront where I saw a number of older Vietnamese men and woman exercising, before the heat of the day kicked in. Others were setting up stalls and opening shops; Vietnam really comes alive early in the morning.
I was given a ticket by a lady at a waterfront, and introduced to the lady that would be taking me down the Mekong. She spoke very little English, but we got by through gesturing.
It is possible to get to the floating markets later in the day, but they tend to be very busy. I am glad I went in the morning. Mainly as I got to see an amazing sunrise.
As the sun rose, the boat floated along the slow mekong, passing other boats and local houses. Various people, who appeared to live on boats, were hanging out washing, catching fish or having a wash by the side of the boat. It was a great insight into the local life.
As we approached the market, I noticed some huge boats with mass produce, and some smaller boats, with various people buying and selling.
Boats had long sticks attached to them, with examples of what was for sale; just like in a supermarket aisle, which I thought was a very clever idea.
The boat I was on sailed through the markets, very quickly, and I had little chance to buy anything. Though, I am not sure what I’d do with a whole sack of rice or box of watermelon.
After passing the markets, we sailed through a small canal area, and stopped off at what looked like a local village. The lady on my boat gestured to me to get off, and I followed her for 5 minutes through the village to a huge barn like area. Various people were standing around, doing very little. I had no idea what was going on, until I spotted what looked like a production chain, and in broken English, another Vietnamese man said “noodles” – It was a dry noodle factory!
At the start of the chain, a man threw a bowl of creamy white liquid on a hot cradle, and placed a bamboo cover on it. After about 1 minute, another lady ran what looked like a giant hair brush over it, which made it stick. This was then placed on a bamboo rack. Later they were taken out to dry in the sunshine. After three days, the noodles were ready to be shredded.
A lengthy process for something as simple as noodles, but it made me appreciate them ever more, when eating them again.
After the factory, I was ushered back onto the boat, and we made our way back down through the small canals, stopping a number of times, for the lady of the boat to remove plastic bags and other debris that had been caught on the pedal of the boat.
During this trip, we stopped near a giant Bamboo plant, and the lady got out a huge machete style knife, and cut a whack off. After only 10 minutes, she presented a lovely creation that she was busy making. I was suitably impressed.
We arrived back down to the waterfront, were I caught a glimpse of the Can Tho Bridge – the longest main span, cable bridge in South East Asia.
I had planned to stay another day in Can Tho, but decided at the last minute to jump on a bus to take me to Ho Chi Minh City, a journey of about 4 hours.
I really enjoyed Can Tho, and the introduction to Vietnamese life that it gave me. A worthwhile trip, though I feel that a home stay programme may have been a little more authentic ad rewarding, as many other travellers informed me.
Have you been to the Mekong Delta, or a floating market? If you are in the South of Vietnam, this area is definitely worth the visit.