When the French subjugated Indochina in the 19th century, the hope of an independent Kampuchea Krom would not happen. Abut made it a separate protectorate known as Cochinchina. On 4 June 1949, the French formally annexed Kampuchea Krom, a day of sorrow for many Cambodians, even though the writing had been on the wall centuries earlier as the area was colonised.
Since independence in 1954, the Vietnamese government has adopted a policy of integration and forced assimilation (the Khmer Krom must take Vietnamese family names and learn the Vietnamese language, among other things). According to the Khmer Kampuchea-Krom Federation (KKF; www.khmerkrom.org), the Khmer Krom go on to suffer persecution. They report difficult access to Vietnamese health services, religious discrimination (Khmer Krom are Theravada Buddhists, unlike Vietnam’s Mahayana Buddhists) and racial discrimination.
The Khmer are the poorest segment of the population. Even their numbers remain a contentious topic: Vietnam reports that there is one million Khmer Krom, whereas KKF claims there are seven million Khmer living in southern Vietnam.
Eating & Drinking
For delicious cheap dishes , let’s try the central market food stalls (Ð Tran Quang Khai). They’re in their own covered area, with two scant blocks north of the main market building. Another favourite, ‘Hotpot Alley’ is the place for fish and duck hotpots, with restaurants stuffed into an alley (Hem 1) between Ɖ Mau Than and Ɖ Ly Tu Trung east of Xoai Hotel.
Sao Hom VIETNAMESE, INTERNATIONAL $
(50 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains 45,000-160,000d; 8am-11pm) This restaurant which is set in the former market and overseen by staff in ao dai has an atmospheric, breezy riverside setting, and is a great spot for lunch or a morning coffee.
Mekong VIETNAMESE, INTERNATIONAL $
(38 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains from 25,000d; 7am-8pm) Looking onto bustling Hai Ba Trung, this travellers’ favourite has a nice blend of local and international food at competitive prices. Let’s try the lovely sour soup with fish (40,000d); good veggie selection.
Nam Bo VIETNAMESE, INTERNATIONAL $
( 071-382 3908; http://nambocantho.com; Nam Bo Boutique Hotel, 1 Ɖ Ngo Quyen; mains from 45,000d, set meals 210,000d; 8am-11pm) This is a restaurant on the ground floor of the Nam Bo hotel with a charming, romantic Mediterranean feel. It’s more affordable than the restaurant on the top floor, but it doesn’t have the views.
New Delhi Indian Food INDIAN $
(128 Ɖ Hai Ba Trung; mains from 40,000d; 10am-11pm) A deficiency in beauty at this stark, soulless Indian restaurant (don’t bring a date) is mixed perfectly by a surfeit of fine flavours in its scrummy vindaloos, kormas, samosas and naans.
Phuong Nam VIETNAMESE $
(48 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains from 40,000d; 10am-10pm) With check tablecloths and a Mediterranean feel, this place has an upstairs terrace for people-watching, even though downstairs is slightly more upmarket. There is speciality which is snake here but you can have a look at vegetarian options .
L’Escale VIETNAMESE, INTERNATIONAL $$$
( 071-381 9139; Nam Bo Boutique Hotel, 1 Ɖ Ngo Quyen; mains 70,000-410,000d; 6am-10.30pm) This restaurant is a romantic choice with tantalising river views from the top of the Nam Bo hotel and outstanding for its menu and strong wine list.
Old Market MARKET
(50 Ð Hai Ba Trung) It is an atmospheric French-era market which is roofed with terracotta tiles edged with ceramic decorations, and is the centrepiece of the city’s attractive river front tourist district. The blood, guts and chaos of the original market have moved north to the central market (and to some of the neighbouring streets), leaving upmarket tourist-orientated stalls selling lacquerware, clothes, pillowslips, postcards and the like.
Central Market MARKET
(Ð Tran Van Kheo) It’s a market which sprawls over four buildings and several blocks abutting the Cai Khe Canal, which a number of local farmers and wholesalers still use to transport their goods. The main market building focuses on produce: for example a colourful, smelly mess of meat, many kinds of fruit and vegetables and fish . Across the road is the cloth market.
Food stalls take up the following block and behind that is another large building full of bags, belts and jewellery.
Can Tho Tourist ( 071-382 1852; www.canthotourist.com.vn; 50 Ð Hai Ba Trung) Staff here can speak fluently both English and French and decent city maps are available, and general information on attractions in the area. There is a booking desk for Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar as well.
Hospital (Benh Vien; 071-382 0071; 4 Ð Chau Van Liem)
Main Post Office (2 ÐL Hoa Binh) Postal services and internet access.
Getting There & Away
Can Tho opened a new international airport in early 2011, but now the only services were Vietnam Airlines (www.vietnamairlines.com) and VASCO (www.vasco.com.vn) flights to Phu Quoc Island, the Con Dao Islands, Hanoi and HCMC (with flights to Danang on the cards). The airport is 10km northwest of the city centre, accessed from Ð Le Hong Phong, the continuation of Ð Nguyen Trai. It will cost travellers about 180,000d to get into town by taxi .
Can Tho has two bus stations. The old bus station (Ben Xe Khach Can Tho; cnr Ð Nguyen Trai & Ð Hung Vuong) is centrally set on the northern edge of the city centre, with regular buses to HCMC’s Mien Tay bus station (100,000d to 110,000d), Cao Lanh (60,000d), Ben Tre (70,000d), My Tho (70,000d), Ca Mau(90,000d), Chau Doc (60,000d) and Long Xuyen (40,000d). The new bus station is in the southwest, and it costs 110,000d to go to HCMC , Ca Mau (110,000d) and Dalat (320,000d).
Travellers can use many boat services to other cities in the Mekong Delta, such as hydrofoils to Ca Mau (150,000d, three to four hours), passing through Phung Hiep.
The xe loi is the main form of transport around Can Tho; these makeshift vehicles are special to the Mekong Delta. Essentially a two-wheeled wagon attached to the rear of a motorbike, the xe loi resembles a motorised cyclo, but there are four wheels touching the ground not than two. Fares around town should be about 10,000d per person (they can carry two, or sometimes more). From the old bus station to the riverside is a 30,000d ride.