There is always something unparalleled and exceptional that can only be found in local markets, most especially a floating one. It’s a tradition that dates back to a couple of decades (or even more), and the continuous usage of it makes it more renowned. Let’s take a step back in time and enter the best floating market in Mekong Delta, Vietnam – the Cai Rang Floating Market.
When somebody mentions a floating market, a couple of goods on a boat in a river is probably the last thing that will enter your mind. Besides, why would people go on boats to barter goods if there are markets on land? It all has something to do with the history of the Cai Rang Floating Market.
The best floating market in Mekong Delta, Vietnam started as the only means of trade because the roads were, well, there were no roads. And people had to find goods, and so the trading began, on water. The wonderful thing about this is that even after roads were developed, the Cai Rang Floating Market lived on and is now a prominent spot to visit. You can’t go to Vietnam and not experience this. It’s like going to Europe during Christmas and skipping the Christmas markets. Who does that?
When To Visit
Rain or shine, no season is daunting to visit the Cai Rang Floating Market. It’s all up to your preference. Going during the rainy season will be cooler, of course. But it also means prepare your rain gear and rent a boat with a roof. It is highly suggested though to visit from late January to early February, the week before the Lunar New Year – this is the busiest week and it won’t be like any other.
How To Get There
Cai Rang Floating Market is in Can Tho, which is about a 4-hour drive from Ho Chi Minh. There is a bus that goes directly from Phuong Trang in District 1. But you can also rent your own transportation and drive.
To access the floating market, you’d need to book a boat in Ninh Kieu station. You can choose from big boats with a roof (which is ideal during the rainy season) or you can just hop on a small one (2-4 seater, no roof).
See & Do
You’d be surprised that you can spend more than an hour in the Cai Rang Floating Market and still feel the need to stay longer. After all, it is the best floating market in Mekong Delta, Vietnam. Be sure to be at Ninh Kieu station at around 5 am in the morning, so you wouldn’t miss the busiest time of the floating market, which is anywhere from 6 am until noon. It takes about 30 minutes by boat (from Ninh Kieu) to reach the actual market spot.
When you arrive at the scene, you’d be overwhelmed by the variety of fresh produce that each boat contains. The trick is, if you’re not buying wholesale, the sellers usually hang on bamboo poles what items they sell per piece. So you wouldn’t have to stop each boat to ask and it’s easy to see when they’re hanging.
And it’s not just fresh produce that is being sold onboard boats, name it, they have it. From petrol filling boats to food selling boats (and we’re talking about freshly made and just cooked food) – you can find it here. It’s like a living and breathing city on water. You have boats that sell lottery tickets, and everyday items like toothbrushes, plates, etc.
What’s amusing is that some, if not most, of the sellers actually live on their boats. You will often see a couple of clothes or blankets hanging on the side of their boats. But unless you see these hanging on the bamboo poles, those are personal belongings and not for sale.
If by any chance, you do tire of going to the Cai Rang Floating Market, there are a few museums worth checking out. The Can Tho Museum, Military Museum, and the Khmer Museum. There is also the Phat Hoc Pagoda, which is the main worship center in Can Tho.
Or you can always continue on the Mekong Delta with our tour option. There’s a fruit garden to visit further along the banks and on the way back to Can Tho will be a lot of rural scenery and lush vegetation.
There are a lot of places to stay in Can Tho, ranging from rustic to boutique to resort and luxury. Mekong Rustic ($46), as its name suggests, gives off the rustic vibe without letting go of comfort. You have bungalows with open-air showers, isn’t that fun. A little bit on the romantic yet modern vibe is TTC Hotel Premium ($82). If you want rustic meets colonial French architecture, Nam Bộ Boutique Hotel ($120) is for you. Victoria Can Tho Resort is a 4-star resort, so expect it to be pricey at $167, but with complete amenities. If you do want to go above and beyond, stay at the Azerai Can Tho Resort ($217), it can only be reached by boat, which makes it exclusive and of course, 5-star. Most of the 4-star to 5-star hotels in this area will offer great rooftop views, if not a pool, so you can relax after that early morning Cai Rang Floating Market escapade.
Eat & Drink
Miss Di Hai noodle soup, which was notably called the best Pho by celebrity and Michelin chef Gordon Ramsay, can only be found in the Cai Rang Floating Market. So don’t miss this. Eat your heart out. Aside from Pho, all kinds of Vietnamese food & drinks (especially their great coffee) can be found in the floating market. So you actually do shopping, sight-seeing, boating, and eating in one go. Nothing gets better than that.
If you do need to eat when you’re not in the Cai Rang Floating Market, there are lots of good options in Can Tho. Phuong Nam Restaurant and Nem nuong Thanh Van are good for local cuisine, L’Escale which is on the top floor of Nam Bo Boutique hotel offers really good French cuisine, and Tomato – Pad Thai is highly acclaimed. When in Vietnam, the best-tasting food is can be found in simple places, which could be a random food stall on the street or in the floating market.
It won’t be called the best floating market in Mekong Delta, Vietnam if it didn’t offer you everything that you’re looking for. But every place has its ups and downs, even the Cai Rang Floating Market. So when you visit, keep an open mind, expect the unexpected, and as always, let go and enjoy. No trip is perfect, but all adventures can be.