Arguably the largest drawcard of the delta is its colourful floating markets, which hug the banks of wide stretches of river. Most market folk set out early to avoid the sunlight , so let’s visit between 6am and 8am and beat the tourist tide. The real tides, however, are also a factor, as bigger boats must often wait until the water is high enough for them to navigate.
Some of the smaller, rural floating markets are disappearing because of improved roads and public transport, but many larger markets near urban areas are still developing rapidly.
Rural areas of Can Tho province, known for their durian, mangosteen and orange orchards, can be easily reached from Can Tho by boat or bicycle.
Sights & Activities
Just 6km from Can Tho in the direction of Soc Trang is Cai Rang, which is the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta. A bridge here serves as a great vantage point for photography. The market is best before 9am, even though some vendors hang out until noon.
It is quite an experience to observe this in full swing, but it’s well worth getting up earlier to beat the tour-group crowds or travellers may end up seeing almost as many foreigners as market traders.
Cai Rang can be seen from the road, but getting here is far more exciting by boat (US$6). From the market area in Can Tho it takes about an hour by river, or visitors can drive to the Cau Dau Sau boat landing (by the Dau Sau Bridge), from where it takes only approximately 10 minutes to reach the market.
Phong Dien Floating Market MARKET
Perhaps the Mekong Delta’s best floating market, Phong Dien has fewer motorised craft and more stand-up rowing boats. Less crowded than Cai Rang, Phong Dien has much fewer tourists. It’s at its bustling best between 6am and 8am. The market is 20km southwest of Can Tho; most visitors can get here by road.
A boat trip here will demand a 3.30am start (return 600,000d), but tourists need to arrange it the day before. It is theoretically necessary to do a whirlwind boat trip, paying a visit to the small canals on the way and ending back at the Cai Rang floating market. It should take approximately five hours return from Can Tho.
For trips on smaller boats (US$4 per hour), operators can be found along Ð Hai Ba Trung by the river, but inspect boats first; the faster alternative is to take a xe om or taxi and then arrange a boat at the other end.
(admission 20,000d; 5am-6pm) On the road between Can Tho and Long Xuyen, Bang Lang (also called Vuon Co) is a magnificent 1.3-hectare bird sanctuary with astonishing views of thousands of resident storks. There is a tall viewing platform to see the storks filling the branches; it’s an absolutely incredible sight (the best times of day are around dawn and dusk).
Bang Lang which is about 15km southeast of Long Xuyen, is in the Thot Not district. Look for a sign in the hamlet of Thoi An saying ‘Ap Von Hoa’. From Can Tho the sign is on the west side of the road, right after a small bridge. It is 2 km off the main highway – can be reached on foot within 30 minutes, or travellers can arrange a motorbike taxi for about 20,000d.