On the swampy shores of the Ganh Hao River, Ca Mau is the capital and sole city in Ca Mau province, which covers the southern tip of the Mekong Delta. It was not until the late 17th century that this remote and inhospitable area was cultivated. Because of the boggy terrain, the province has the lowest population density in southern Vietnam. It incorporates the country’s largest swamp and is well-known for its voracious mosquitoes.
Given that, it’s perhaps surprising that Ca Mau city is such a pleasant place. With wide boulevards, parks and busy shopping streets, the town witnesses a rapid development in recent years but still attracts few tourists. The most important attractions are the nearby swamps and forests, explorable by boat.
Ca Mau Market
(Ð Le Loi) Lives of local people in Ca Mau are lives facing the water traditionally , and as the floating market has disappeared these days , the main market still sprawls along the streets to the west of Phung Hiep Canal, south of Ð Phan Ngoc Hien.
Cao Dai Temple
(Ð Phan Ngoc Hien) Like all Cao Dai places of worship, this temple (built in 1966) is a riot of colour and ornamentation.
Quoc Te Hotel $
(International Hotel; 0780-366 6666; www.hotelquocte.com; 179 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r from 280,000d) Breakfast and airport pick-ups are included in the price at this business hotel with swimming pool, massage service and a lift. It falls short of international standards, but rooms are fine enough.
Thanh Son Hotel $
( 0780-355 0992; 23 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r 80,000-230,000d) This light and bright five – storey mini hotel has clean rooms with tiled floors. Extras include TV and hot water, and bathtubs in the more luxurious rooms. Little English is spoken.
Anh Nguyet Hotel $$
( 0780-356 7666; www.anhnguyethotel.com; 207 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; r US$29-49) Romantically translating as the Moonlight Hotel, this destination attempts a glitzy look. There are perfectly nice rooms , even though walls are thin and the carpets rather cheap.
Ca Mau is well-known for shrimp, which is raised in ponds and mangrove forests. The most delicious food is to be discovered at the cluster of small, cheap roadside restaurants and banh mi stalls in the streets around the market, especially at the end of Ð Nguyen Huu Le. In the evening, the eastern end of Ð Pham Ngoc Hien becomes a big outdoor café.
Pho Xua VIETNAMESE, SEAFOOD $$
(126 Ð Phan Ngoc Hien; mains 50,000-300,000d; 7am-10pm) An atmospheric place set amid landscaped gardens draped in fairy lights, with a menu focus on shrimp and other seafood dishes.
Ca Mau Hospital (Benh Vien Ca Mau; 0780-383 1015; Ð Ly Thuong Kiet)
Ca Mau Tourist ( 0780-381 7057; www.camautravel.vn; 1B Ð An Duong Vuong; 9am-5pm)
Getting There & Around
Vietnam Air Service Company (VASCO; www.vasco.com.vn), a subsidiary of Vietnam Airlines, serves two flights everyday to and from HCMC (from 750,000d, one hour). The airport is 3km east of the centre, on Hwy 1A.
At least three hydrofoils a day travel from Ca Mau to Rach Gia and vice versa (125,000d, three hours) from Ferry Pier Can Ganh Hao, where visitors can also arrange a speedboat south to Nam Can (60,000d, one hour). Boats to Can Tho (150,000d, three to four hours), with a stop in Phung Hiep, depart from Cong Ca Mau pier (Ð Quang Trung), 3km east of town.
Travel by Hydrofoil
If you’re tossing up between taking a hydrofoil or a bus, take the hydrofoil every time. They’re less crowded and generally more enjoyable, and the trip is also more interesting.
There are low and long boats here , meaning views are just above the waterline. The journey between Ca Mau and Rach Gia is rather nice , as it switches from a green, undeveloped region dotted with rattan houses near Ca Mau to a heavily built-up and industrial stretch approaching Rach Gia.
There are buses depart from Mien Tay bus station to Ca Mau; express buses (130,000d) will take travellers about seven hours. Lots of daily express buses depart for HCMC between 5am and 10.30am. Daily buses also leave for Rach Gia (50,000d), Ha Tien(89,000d), Bac Lieu (50,000d), Can Tho (65,000d), Cao Lanh (83,000d), My Tho (100,000d) and Ben Tre (103,000d). It’s approximately 2.5km to go from the Ca Mau bus station to the center of town ; head along Hwy 1A towards Bac Lieu.
Car & Motorbike
Hwy 1A now continues to Nam Can (50km), the southernmost town in Vietnam. Ca Mau is 176km far away from Can Tho (around three hours) and 329km far from HCMC (approximately seven hours).