Can Tho, the biggest city in the Mekong Delta, is also one of the most popular destinations, attracts travelers with its famous floating markets. If you have time for just one destination in this area, you should head to Can Tho and here are what to see there.
What to see in Can Tho for a day
Located at the confluence of the Can Tho and Hau (also known as the Bassac) rivers and crisscrossed by tributaries, canals feeding the lives of the locals like veins, Can Tho has always been an important trading and transportation center. The French sought to exploit the riches of Indochina, and river trading became essential to link the Mekong Delta, Laos and Cambodia.
Thanks to its extremely fertile soil, Can Tho is one of the largest agricultural producers in the Mekong Delta, often referred to as Vietnam’s “rice basket”. At dawn, you can visit the Cai Rang floating market. Best experienced on a private trip in a sampan, your wooden boat slips between ships filled with fruits and vegetables. Each ship advertises what it is selling by hanging the product on a bamboo pole. For the locals, the ship is their life, both the workplace and the home. Small boats sell everything from banh mi to noodle soup to lottery tickets. There is nothing better than enjoying a nice cup of Vietnamese coffee while watching the sale of 20 kilos of dragon fruit.
After the floating market, an excursion through the narrow canals provides a better understanding of a river dependent livelihood – a way of life that is evaporating. Floating markets are disappearing, with bridges and new roads making river transport unnecessary. Life on the river is not easy and people are looking for jobs on land, in big cities. Visit Can Tho and floating markets like Cai Rang, Phong Dien or Phung Hiep before they disappear!
Where to go in Can Tho at night
For travelers in a hurry, it is possible to stop at Can Tho for one night, after the floating market / boat tour in the Mekong Delta, which returns ashore around noon. We highly recommend spending a night in Can Tho rather than taking the “Mekong Delta Day Trip”. In Can Tho, the tourist infrastructure is well developed and affordable.
The atmosphere in the Mekong Delta is much more relaxed and friendly than elsewhere in the country. No wonder, given its agricultural prowess, the food in this region is fantastic and inexpensive. Stock up on fresh tropical fruits, vegetables and seafood at De Tham Street and at Cho Dem Tran Phu Night Market.
Try specialties from the Mekong Delta like banh xeo, large fried pancakes, and banh cong, a mung bean and shrimp cake. Unique noodle soups abound: hu tieu, banh canh, bun rieu and bun mam. Adventurers can try chuot dong nuong (roasted field mouse). Thanks to the proximity to Cambodia, it goes without saying that some dishes have a Khmer influence.
The riverside is the typical image of the city. A promenade stretches along Hai Ba Trung Street and includes a pedestrian bridge and walkway to the north, a lovely spot for a late afternoon and evening stroll. A stop at the 19th century Ong temple is a must for some striking photos. Modern temples built near the city center include the Phat Hoc Pagoda (Chua Phat Hoc) on the bustling corner of Hoa Binh and Nguyen Thai Hoc Street, and opposite the Khmer Munirensay Temple.
Further south, the central market is full of local shops early in the morning, while after sunset the night market is teeming with Vietnamese and foreign tourists.
While the city of Can Tho is very large compared to other cities in the Mekong Delta, it’s relatively easy to navigate. The traffic is always a little manic and it is better to leave the road to the locals. Most of the hotels and guesthouses for travelers are located on the riverside on Hai Ba Trung Street. You will also find tourist boats, travel agencies, central markets and the promenade route.
Now you got the ideas of where to go and what to see in Can Tho. As in any city in Vietnam, stepping out of the tourist center will generate interactions with the locals, delicious meals, rice fields and pretty scenery.