. It is also the perfect base for nearby floating markets, the main draw for visitors who come here to boat along the many canals and rivers leading out of town.
Ong Temple TEMPLE
(32 D Hai Ba Trung; 6am-8pm) In a fantastic location facing the Can Tho River and decorated with huge incense coils, this Chinese temple is set inside the Guangzhou Assembly Hall (Ð Hai Ba Trung). It is the most interesting religious place in town. It was originally constructed in the late 19th century to worship Kuang Kung, a deity symbolising loyalty, justice, reason, intelligence, honour and courage, among other merits.
Approaching the engraved screen, the right side is devoted to the Goddess of Fortune and the left side is reserved for the worship of General Ma Tien. In the centre of the temple is Kuang Kung flanked by the God of Earth and the God of Finance.
Can Tho Museum MUSEUM
(1 ƉL Hoa Binh; 8-11am & 2-5pm Tue-Thu, 8-11am & 6.30-9pm Sat & Sun) This museum is large, well-presented and brings local history to life with manikins and life-size reproductions of buildings, consisting of a Chinese pagoda and a house interior. Displays (with ample English translations) concentrate on the Khmer and Chinese communities, plant and fish specimens, rice production and, inevitably, the American War.
Munirensay Pagoda BUDDHIST TEMPLE
(36 ÐL Hoa Binh; 8am-5pm) This pagoda was originally constructed in 1946 to serve Can Tho’s Khmer community. The ornamentation is typical of Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas, with none of the multiple Bodhisattvas and Taoist spirits common in Vietnamese Mahayana pagodas.
The undisputed attraction of any visit to Can Tho is having a boat ride through the canals to a floating market. It costs about US$5 per hour for a small boat, which can carry two or three travellers . For boat operators (mostly women), just take around the riverside near the giant statue of Ho Chi Minh. Travellers can also book through Can Tho Tourist, but this leaves little room for negotiation.
Larger motorboats can go further afield and it’s worth hiring one to make a tour of the Mekong River itself. Check the going rates at Can Tho Tourist, then see what’s on offer at the pier by the Ninh Kieu hotel. Prices range from 200,000d for a three-hour tour to 350,000d for a five-hour tour. Negotiation is the name of the game.
Can Tho boasts the best range of accommodation in the Mekong Delta, so lie back and enjoy.
Xoai Hotel HOTEL $
( 0907 652 927; http://hotelxoai.com; 93 Ɖ Mau Than; s US$10, d US$14-26, tw US$19) Excellent value at this warmly , efficient hotel with light , mango-coloured (the hotel name means ‘Mango Hotel’), airy rooms. Staff here speak English fluently and there’s a roof terrace with hammocks.
Kim Lan Hotel HOTEL $
( 071-381 7049; www.kimlancantho.com.vn; 138A Ð Nguyen An Ninh; r US$20-48) Kim Lan Hotel is a very clean minihotel with chic rooms, comtemporary furnishings and artworks on the wall. Even the small, windowless US$20 standard rooms are perfectly good , and deluxe rooms are lovely.
Xuan Mai Minihotel HOTEL $
( 071-382 3578; firstname.lastname@example.org; 17 Ð Dien Bien Phu; r US$12) Situated down a small land , this place is popular with budget tour groups thanks to spacious, clean and surprisingly quiet rooms with TVs, fridges and hot showers.
Phuong Nam HOTEL $
( 071-376 3959; 118/9/39 Ð Tran Van Kheo; r US$20) On the same road as the central market, this smartish hotel (seven storeys, with lift) is closer to the bus station in a bustling part of the central city. Rooms have big bathrooms and wi-fi.
Kim Tho Hotel HOTEL $$
( 071-381 7517; www.kimtho.com; 1A Ð Ngo Gia Tu; r 950,000-1,400,000d)
It’s an attractive hotel with smart rooms . Rooms are stylish throughout and include good bathrooms. Cheaper rooms are on lower floors, but more expensive rooms have hardwood flooring and the pricier river-view rooms are still a great deal. There is also a rooftop coffee bar on the 12th floor.
Saigon Cantho HOTEL $$
( 071-382 5831; www.saigoncantho.com.vn; 55 Ð Phan Dinh Phung; s 476,000-1,190,000d, 562,000-1,190,000d) This well-kept hotel has a dependable range of good-value rooms. Deluxe rooms are like suites and come with flat-screen TVs and fruit baskets; all rooms have safety deposit boxes.
Ninh Kieu 2 HOTEL $$
( 071-625 2377; www.ninhkieuhotel.com; 3 ÐL Hoa Binh; r 777,000-1,097,000d) This large hotel has clean, comfortable rooms with handsome furnishings. There are cheaper rooms with no window and pleasantly furnished with a minute corner bath. Superior rooms may have windows facing the interior coutryard, so check first. The lobby is a study in Vietnamese glam, with big chandeliers, marble tiles and a neon sign over reception.
Nam Bo Boutique Hotel BOUTIQUE HOTEL $$$
( 071-381 9139; www.nambocantho.com; 1 Ɖ Ngo Quyen; r from US$140) Presiding over a mere seven suites in a colonial-era building, this amazing riverfront hotel revels in traditional presentation and contemporary elegance, though service can be quite flat. Good restaurants on the top floor, and at ground level.
Victoria Can Tho Resort RESORT $$$
( 071-381 0111; www.victoriahotels.asia; Cai Khe Ward; r US$91-230, ste US$277-310) With particularly gracious service, this hotel defines style and sophistication in the Mekong Delta. Designed with a French colonial look, the rooms – with stunning corridors – are set around an inviting pool that looks out over the river. Facilities include a good restaurant, an open-air bar and a riverside spa. There are plenty of activities on offer, for example cycling tours, cooking classes and cruises on the Lady Hau, a converted rice barge.
Travellers to some Mekong provinces could be surprised to find Khmer towns whose inhabitants speak a different language, follow a different brand of Buddhism and have a remarkable different history and culture to their Vietnamese neighbours. Even though the Khmer are a minority in the Mekong, they were the first people living here, with an ancestry dating back more than 2000 years.
The unofficial Khmer name for the Mekong Delta region is Kampuchea Krom , whose indigenous inhabitants are the Khmer Krom, an ethnic minority who live in southern Vietnam. The Khmer Krom trace their origins back to the 1st century AD, to the founding of Funan, a maritime empire that stretched from the Malay Peninsula to the Mekong. Archaeologists believe Funan was a sophisticated society that built canals, traded in precious metals and had a high level of political organisation and agricultural know-how. Following the Funan came the Chenla empire (630–802 AD) and then the Khmer empire, the mightiest in Southeast Asia, which saw the great of Angkor Wat among other great achievements. By the 17th century, however, the empire was in ruins, under pressure from the expansionist Thais and Vietnamese. This was a time of rising power for the Vietnamese empire, which began expanding south, conquering first the Cham empire before setting their sights on Khmer lands in the Mekong Delta.
According to some historians, there were around 40,000 Khmer families living around Prey Nokor as the Vietnamese arrived in the 1600s, following the granting of settlement rights by King Chey Chettha in 1623. Prey Nokor was an important port for the Cambodian kingdom and was renamed Saigon in 1698. A large number of Vietnamese settlers populated the city as other colonists continued south. Prior to their arrival there were 700 Khmer temples scattered around south Vietnam. Over the next century the Khmer Krom fought and won some minor victories in the area , expelling the intruders, only to lose their gains in new rounds of attacks.