Open since the nineteenth century, the Cai Rang Floating Market is the premier floating market in Vietnam and differs greatly from the ‘tourist traps’ of Bangkok. It is located on magical Mekong Delta region; which attracts hundreds of thousands of international visitors on their Mekong Delta group tours every year.
The Cai Rang Floating Market is just 6km away from Can Tho and is primarily used by families and local businesses for wholesale purchases rather than trinkets for tourists. In recent years, Mekong Delta small group tour has become a highly sought-after experience for travellers to Vietnam. This UNESCO cultural heritage site provides a fascinating look into Vietnamese life on the Mekong Delta; where visitors can begin to understand how the locals use this beautiful maze of water channels for work, transport, and residential purposes.
The busy Cai Rang market (Source: Internet)
The market is open Tuesday-Sunday from 3am and is generally empty by midday when the heat of the day is at its highest. Visitors are encouraged to arrive before 6am in order to get the most out of the experience. This is when the market is busiest and most tourists will spend about three hours there.
Luxury group tours on Mekong Delta will begin their guidance by having you walk through a colourful sea of fresh fruits and vegetables: this is the small market at the port of Cai Rang. Continue through the market to reach the dock of the river. There you will not only find your boat and meet your driver for the day, but you will also find a great opportunity to test your photography skills as the sun rises. The Cai Rang bridge creates a beautiful silhouette that splits the sunrise across your eye-line, and the colours dance across the waves in orange and purple hues. It is truly a magical way to begin your day.
Once you have been fitted with a life-jacket (provided by your Mekong Delta deluxe group tour), your journey will begin down the river as you are exposed to numerous fascinating features of this floating market. One of the first things that you will notice is the large bamboo poles raised high from the various vendor boats. These are known as cay beo and they work as simple advertising: vendors will attach a few sample products to the top of an erect bamboo pole for potential customers to see from far away. The cay beo allows customers to find what they are looking for with great ease and also provides vendors with ample preparation time to moor the two boats together. Most of these goods are grown on the Delta itself (such as coconuts, sweet potatoes, and watermelons) but on Mekong Delta group tours, you may find some boats selling large quantities of clothing or even medicine. You will see many large vessels piled high with a mountain fresh goods as sampans float beside them to purchase wholesale items. These transactions are a treat to watch as the two boats negotiate over the sound of humming motors, and you’ll often see vendors tossing their produce over the water with relaxed precision as the deal is completed.
Cay beo at Cai Rang market (Source: Internet)
Many visitors of the Cai Rang Floating Market have been surprised by the lack of trinkets available for purchase and leave feeling disappointed; however, these tend to be tourists who are visiting for the wrong reasons. The best way to experience this market is not with your wallet: it is with your eyes, your ears, and your stomach.
Here are six delicious things to enjoy for breakfast on your Mekong Delta group tours’ boat down the Cai Rang Floating Market:
1- Vietnamese Coffee
Floating market’s iced coffee (Source: Internet)
A necessity for anyone waking up to 5am roosters/smartphone alarms. Expect to see more than a few sampans bearing the delicious Vietnamese brew; which you can order in a number of ways. Memorise the following phrases or ask the guide on your Mekong Delta group tours to order Vietnamese coffee like a pro and impress your local boat-barista:
a. Ca phe sua (da/nong)
Coffee with milk (iced/hot)
b. Ca phe den (da/nong)
Black coffee (iced/hot)
c. Ca phe den (da/nong) khong duong
Black coffee (iced/hot) without sugar
2- Banh Mi
Banh mi is also sold on boats (Source: Internet)
Banh mi is a staple breakfast item in both Northern and Southern Vietnam. These delicious sandwiches are a go-to choice for Vietnamese cuisine, and there is something even more satisfying about biting into one while floating downstream. Barbecued pork and pickled vegetables are nestled in a warm, crunchy bun; then topped with coriander and a spicy-sweet chilli.
3- Bun Rieu
A bun rieu boat on Cai Rang market (Source: Internet)
This Vietnamese dish is a traditional meat and rice vermicelli soup with a fresh, sour flavour. It is usually best enjoyed in the summer months but is available year-round. It is popular for its fresh, sour flavour and high nutritional value: calcium from ground crab, iron from congealed pig's blood, and plenty of vitamins and fiber from vegetables make this a hearty and healthy breakfast. Be careful though: the waves of the river can sometimes splash into your soup!
4- Bun Thit Nuong
Delicious bun thit nuong (Source: Internet)
Much like bun cha in Northern Vietnam, bun thit nuong is a vermicelli noodle dish that is topped with grilled pork, pickled vegetables, and a fresh herb salad. The pork is covered with fish sauce prior to cooking, which creates a sweet glazy flavour that playfully mixes with the light charcoal taste of the grill. Highly recommended!
5- Hu Tieu My Tho
Hu tieu – a popular dish in Cai Rang market (Source: Internet)
Another classic breakfast dish in Vietnam; Hu Tieu My Tho is another pork-based soup dish that is served with glass noodles, bean sprouts, dried shrimp, and BBQ sliced pork. At the Cai Rang Floating Market, the soup may be served with the pork still on the bone. This gives the soup a more intense flavour that is a real treat to enjoy on the river. Enjoy with a sprinkle of fresh chilli to really excite your senses.
6- Fresh Pineapple
Pineapple and other fruit boats
This is a must-try for first-time visitors to Vietnam! Pineapple vendors will invite you onto their boat where they will demonstrate the best way to eat a pineapple. Pineapples are artfully cut into bite-sized slices, handled like a drumstick, for efficient eating. Pineapples are available all over Vietnam, but the magic of the Mekong Delta water gives them an extra juicy sweetness that is impossible to deny.