The sound of engine-powered boats running along the Hau River wakens travelers who are sleeping in the hotels on the banks of the main southern arm of Mekong Delta. It calls them for an early trip to Cai Rang Floating Market – the popular tourist site near Can Tho City.
In the early hours, boats of all different sizes make their way to Cai Rang on the river to sell and buy farm produce and whatever products they have to offer. An earlier arrival at the thriving market ensures more space for tourist boats to maneuver in the crowded market and, of course, more things to look at.
Arriving at Cai Rang before 7 a.m. or a little later is a good idea to explore the market, as after that tourist boats flock there in droves, making it noisier and narrower for boats to move forward. Photographers can hardly take a steady shot because of the wake from boats running up and down the river.
Many big boats are also houses on which families live. A crowd of tourist boats makes locals feel too uncomfortable to carry out their normal activities, especially children who are camera shy so they dare not even wave their hands to greet visitors as they usually did before the market attracted so many sightseers.
As Cai Rang is about eight kilometers from the Mekong Delta city, a boat trip from Ninh Kieu Wharf takes some 30 minutes or more. Again, you should bear in mind that the earlier you come to the floating market, the better you can travel around to see everything close up.
Owners of small boats can make their way to every corner of the 300-year-old market so you can see and even touch the produce and merchandise, watch all the bargaining and learn how this market goes.
A common scene is the farmers taking their bananas, pomelos, oranges, water melons, sweet potatoes, pumpkins and other farm produce to Cai Rang for sale to wholesalers. Smaller boats load up with tomatoes, vegetables, cucumber, pork, fish, soft drinks, noodle soup and the other necessities of life to sell to the families whose boats are their homes.
To attract wholesalers on the larger boats, the vendors tie samples of what they sell onto tall poles so that the buyers can see. The wholesalers buy up big and distribute the produce around the region and the country.There’s lots of busy selling and buying going on at the market from the time when the sun rises until 10 a.m. Visitors can take part in the busy commerce as owners of smaller boats often approach tourist boats to sell fruit and other specialties of the Mekong Delta region.
A number of brokers usually ask tourists to book a morning trip to the market while they are walking in Ninh Kieu Wharf, but bookings should be made at the travel firms in Can Tho City. These companies offer packages of a half day or a day taking in the floating market and the villages where locals make hu tieu instant noodles and rice vermicelli. Victoria Can Tho Resort organizes a four-hour sunrise breakfast cruise on its Lady Hau to the floating market and other places of interest by traditional sampans. This wooden boat departs from the hotel’s jetty at 6:30 in the morning and guests are served with breakfast of international dishes and Vietnamese specialties on board.
The Lady Hau also leaves the hotel for a sunset cruise, with special cocktails and snacks served on board. By Mong Binh in HCMC of SGT