Floating Markets in the Mekong Delta

Read more about my Self Care Sabbatical and the other places I’ve visited! 

If you spend a lot of time in Vietnam, make it a point to visit the Mekong Delta. It’s possible to visit the Delta from Saigon on a day trip, but if you have the time to stay overnight, I would definitely recommend allotting some time to this part of Vietnam. In fact, I only stayed 2 nights in Can Tho but wish I could have explored more parts of the Mekong Delta. Unfortunately, my visa was about to expire! 

The first thing I noticed about this region is just how green it is! After spending time on rainy beaches and in Saigon, the sudden burst of greenery upon arriving in the Mekong Delta was remarkable.

So why do most people visit the Mekong Delta? To see the activity happening all along the river! This whole area seemed very unlike the rest of Vietnam that I had seen, an entire region built up along the water.

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Take a Floating Market Tour

One of the most popular things to do in Can Tho is to take a floating market tour on the Mekong River. It’s easy to find tours offering this and my hostel had their own tour they were able to set up which made things really easy. I was able to coordinate my tour before my arrival – especially helpful since I only had one full day in Can Tho and didn’t want to spend my time trying to organize a tour! The tour was only $20 and I was glad it was just 3 of us plus our guide.

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Our tour left from our hostel at 5:30am – the market runs very early in the morning so it’s necessary to leave that early. The timing is perfect because you will get to see amazing sunrise views along the river! There are quite a few of these tours so you will see plenty of other boats around in the market – it can be quite touristy and many of the tour boats are quite large. I was glad that there were just 3 of us from the hostel plus our tour guide. As we approached the market, we stopped for coffee, served out of one of the vendors’ boats.

All of the vendors in the floating market operate out of boats and advertise what they are selling by hoisting their produce up on a pole for everyone to see.

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Our boat wove through the market before finally stopping at a noodle boat selling hu tieu noodles – we each got a bowl of this soup (which I had tried in Saigon and loved) and got to eat it on the boat alongside a few other tour boats.

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After the market our boat traveled over to a noodle factory where we saw how the local noodles are made (these are made from rice and tapioca flour) – again, another touristy place but I really enjoyed seeing the noodle-making process!

Our last stop was at a fruit farm where we got to try a bunch of different fruit (jackfruit, papaya, mango, dragon fruit, and more). I loved all of the tropical fruit in Vietnam so I was very happy about this stop. I was even more pleased when I learned the two guys on my tour were not so into fruit and let me have nearly all of it!

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It seems that most of the tours follow a similar path, but we managed to be a bit ahead of the other groups which made the stops a little less crowded. The boat ride from the market to the fruit farm and back was also really nice (and included a few necessary photo ops).

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Eating Lots of Street Food

My time in Can Tho was short and I ate most of my food from street markets! It was delicious and also pretty cheap eating as well. My first night, I wandered down the busy, main road from the hostel to see what I might find for dinner. After about five minutes, I stumbled upon a night market full of dessert stands and fresh fish vendors grilling up today’s catch. After seeing that most of the stalls were similar, I stopped at one of the busy grill stands, sat down, and was promptly told to get up and pick out my fish from among the large display. I chose some octopus and some shrimp, not having any idea of what this would cost. I was quite surprised to see that it only totaled to 97K VND. Many of the people around me kept ordering more and more food – wish I’d had someone to share with!

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The dessert stands seemed to be selling some version of che, but I was a bit confused as to what it was. There were all sorts of fresh fruit and toppings (like jellied candies) lined up to choose from. When I approached one of the vendors she handed me a cup and told me I could fill up the cup with any of the fruit or candy I wanted for only 20K VND!

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On my second night in Can Tho, I decided to check out the night market in the main part of town for dinner. I really didn’t love the location of this night market because it’s a mix of foot traffic and motorbikes stopping to pick up food at the stalls. This is really annoying if you are on foot – you are constantly looking out to make sure you don’t get hit by a motorbike! There are also not a lot of places to sit down once you have your food. The good thing about the market is that it’s very cheap and there are lots of che stands (if you are like me and love che, you will be very happy). I was able to buy some banh trang tron and che for just 35K VND. The che in Can Tho was offered in a variety of ways, but I really couldn’t understand what to order. Instead, I just pointed at a few things and was surprised by what I got. This che was more like a sweet tea with some red beans in it – it was really tasty, but not quite what I was used to.

Near to the night market, there are many bars and restaurants so you can check those out before or after the market (or if you are looking for more of a sit-down option).

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The only other place I ate in Can Tho was a small pho restaurant next door to Casa Inn Hostel. If you do stay at this hostel or in this area, I highly recommend trying this place! A great bowl of pho for 35K VND.

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Getting There: If you are going on your own and not part of a tour, the best option is to take the Futa bus from Saigon to one of the cities in the Mekong Delta. Can Tho seemed to have a few things to offer. It’s one of the biggest cities in the Mekong Delta so makes a good base. The Futa bus is mostly locals, but it has extensive coverage into the Mekong Delta so good to get around this area. The bus also offers a free shuttle to/from your accommodation in Can Tho!

After I left Can Tho, I went to Chau Doc, a small town near the Cambodian border. It’s possible to take a boat from Chau Doc to Phnom Penh and if you are taking this boat, you will need to spend the night in Chau Doc (boat leaves around 7:30am). This is the only reason to visit Chau Doc.

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Where to Stay: There is the main city area in Can Tho along the waterfront where there are many hotels and some restaurants. This area is close to the river and market area. Staying here will give you access to places to eat and things to do within walking distance. I chose, however, to stay at a hostel a bit further away from the main part of town (about 20 minutes walking distance). I really enjoyed staying at this hostel and the distance from the town was not a problem. I was only in Can Tho for a short time and didn’t need to stay close to the town. I spent one night wandering around in the main tourist area, but spent the rest of my time closer to my hostel which felt a bit more “local”. It was also easy for me to get a Grab bike from the main part of town back to my hostel for just 15K VND.

My hostel, Casa Inn, is a relatively new accommodation with extremely friendly service and very nice rooms. I stayed in a small shared room with 2 other girls – we had our own bathroom and a comfortable room. The hostel offers a nice breakfast as well.

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2 Comments

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  1. In preparation for our first trip to Asia (Laos, Cambodia), I went to the travel medicine doctor. She told me to avoid street food in SE Asia, but all the bloggers I follow eat it happily and regularly, including you. Have you ever had any trouble with it, like food poisoning? Are there any rules you follow, like only cooked food? Do you think there are things that should generally be avoided? The doctor said to eat only fruits you can peel. It seems such a shame to avoid street food on our trip – it seems like such a quintessential part of SE Asia. Any advice appreciated! Great post, by the way. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • Great Question! I only had 2 instances of illness from eating street food – one from some meat and one from coconut. I would suggest sticking to cooked food and, if something looks or tastes odd, don’t eat it! Fruit was generally not a problem, but I stuck to fruits that looked wrapped up (if they weren’t peeled) and was kept cool. You can usually tell when something looks a little off or may have been sitting out for awhile – use your best judgment and you should be okay! Also, pack some cipro and immodium in case you do get sick!

      Liked by 1 person

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