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07 February 2021

Cai Rang - Can Tho - floating market

Good morning, time flies fast. We meet six days before the Lunar New Year that will take over Asia in a week's time.

The moon is slowly approaching the new moon phase and next week, on the night of February 11-12, we will celebrate Lunar New Year 2021, the year of the Ox.

Exactly one week before the new moon, last Thursday, we had the Day of the Kitchen Ghost, Tao Quan, who needs to go to heaven to report how last year has passed. To make his task easier, the people of Asia have to prepare 3 golden fish, or the popular local carp, to enable this spirit to walk safely to heaven. I prepared three… jars of pickled cucumbers and I hope Tao Quan was satisfied. I hope he has reported favorably my year in Asia.

As I said, time flies. Allow us to stay for a while in the capital of the Mekong Delta, Can Tho. Today I will invite you to Cai Rang - "floating market".

When browsing travel blogs, you have certainly seen reports, photos or videos from marketplaces on the water more than once. It is a very popular place to do business in Asia.

I was also interested in what it looks like from the inside and while in the Mekong Delta, I decided to check it out for myself.

The floating market - Cai Rang, one of the attractions in the capital of the Mekong Delta, Can Tho, requires a bit of discipline from us. To see and experience the charm of this place, you should go there by boat at dawn.

You can choose two ways. The first is to book a medium-sized boat that will take you straight from the center of Can Tho. The second is to take a taxi to the place where the market begins and take advantage of the offer of one of the residents there, and take a small boat to the market visible from the shore.

Because I wanted to use this day in full, I chose a medium-sized boat, which I sailed individually to Cai Rang, and later, after 10 am, I would go sightseeing in the canals and visit a rice noodle factory, which you will learn about in a separate article.



Welcome to Cai Rang

Wake up at 4 am. At five o'clock the boat was waiting at the quay. The journey itself to the water market takes around 30 minutes from the center of Can Tho. You will be sailing in the company of many boats as this is one of the most visited attractions in this city. Waves and rocking the boat included :).

As you approach the market, you will see a bridge over the river bearing the same name as the city, Can Tho River, which will greet you with a giant sign - "Welcome to Cai Rang". This is a sign that we are just entering the area of ​​the "floating market".

We pass the bridge and here we are. Large boats full of cargo are immediately noticeable. Between them, little boats that float like ants. There are really a lot of them. These dozens of huge, huge boats similar to medieval galleons and dozens of small boats are impressive.

Large boats, anchored in the main stream of the river, are waiting for customers. The Mekong Delta, which I wrote about in the article about the 9 Dragons Delta, is Viet Nam's granary. We already know that. What we are seeing here is the form in which the farmers who produce food in the Delta distribute their crops inland and further into the country. A well-developed and maintained network of canals, rivers and tributaries is very dense in this part of Viet Nam. This facilitates easy transport of crops from fields or orchards to the public market.

I was very curious how to recognize what a specific boat offers, you can say a specific "stall on the water".



The offer

I quickly noticed that each of these boats had a high mast on which the goods that the boat traded hang on. A great solution. Sailing between the boats, you can see the offer from afar. Whether they are watermelons or pineapples. Whether potatoes, onions or cabbage. Or maybe dragon fruit and pineapples.

This specific way of advertising goods on poles attached to the side is really fantastic. Not only is it apparently from a distance, but you can also compare the goods hanging on poles between two or three boats and you immediately know who offers larger watermelons, more yellow pineapples, or better quality onions, for example.

I must admit that this is a very ingenious form of advertising the goods on the boat.

Each of them is a separate stall. It is usually operated by the whole family. Men pack the purchased goods on smaller boats, women take care of the settlement, and children help their parents in both of these activities.

The traffic on the water is intensified not only by the fact that from 4 a.m. boats from nearby towns and villages come for supplies, but also by the fact that many tourists want to see live how such a market works. In fact, I am one of them, so I also contribute to the crowds on the water.


Are you hungry? No problem...

This traffic also has implications for its handling.

How the Vietnamese can take advantage of opportunities to earn money is amazing.

Trade on the water, dozens if not to say that hundreds of medium and small boats, including those with tourists, are hundreds of people who want to eat and drink.

Therefore, we need a Catering Service.

This is another surprise.

Such a large group of tourists means that gastronomy on the water flourishes here.

It is amazing how the bars, cafes and restaurants function out of all these big and small boats.

They serve soups, rice dishes, chicken or pork. They are also water cafes that come by and serve all kinds of coffee, tea, drinks and water.

I personally ordered Hu Tieu, rice noodles soup, local Banh Mi and then I treated myself to coffee with sweet condensed milk. Delicious, especially on the water. In a way, tourists visit this place just for these attractions. After all, none of us will buy 300 kg of onions. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of such a place, eating a local breakfast and having a morning coffee on the boat, among dozens of other boats, is an extraordinary experience.


Bill please...

Are you curious about how salespeople handle food or coffee bills?

They use a very clever and really simple solution.

After all, every person who orders a meal or a drink comes by boat ...

The bar or cafe staff simply ties the boat to their own and as long as the bill is unpaid, the boats are tied together. Only when the people serving meals and drinks are paid, do they release the mooring lines. In this simple way, order is maintained and the order is fairly paid.

A simple and effective solution. The customer is our master! How much will pay ...

Such a feast together and drinking coffee in a group of a dozen or so small boats and a dozen or several dozen people is a really great experience.


Time to go further...

Meanwhile, the river continues to flow fast around us, trade is booming and tons of products change hands and are transferred from large boats to small ones.

Soon they will set off on a shorter or longer journey to their towns and villages, supplying local markets with fresh fruit and crops from the Mekong Delta.

Trade blooms until 09:30 in the morning. All prices are negotiable and everything depends on the quality of the products and the quantity of products purchased. Thus, the echo of the negotiations between the Vietnamese is carried across the water. And since the language is tonal and resonant, we have a cacophony of sounds. The humming of motorboat engines is mingled with lively negotiations and the sound of loading goods onto smaller boats.

Around 10 am, there is a moment of respite for sellers. The cargo decks are almost empty, the goods are reloaded onto small boats and the transactions are completed with payment.

So it's time for a meal and a moment of rest.



Welcome on board...

It is also the moment when owners of large boats are eager to invite tourists to come on board.

So you can get on the boat, sit on the upper deck where the entire cargo is usually stored. You can easily see the inside of the boat, where the larger supplies are stored and where the owners live.

After the morning trade, very little is usually left on the boat.

Just enough to sell them to tourists and at the same time have a moment for talks between the owner and the guest.

So you can visit the boat, eat the fruit prepared by the owner and buy small amounts for your own consumption. This is the moment when salespeople are slowly getting ready to rest after a long night of work, and tourists have fun.

It is also a way to earn extra income. Each of the tourists will be happy to taste fresh fruit, listen to stories and ... leave several hundred thousand dongs. The owner has, we could say, a form of a bonus for spending the whole night on the water preparing the goods for sale, while being open to receiving guests on board.



What a day...

This was my first "floating market" that I visited. I must say it is impressive.

The number of boats, the quantity of goods, the form of the transaction, the transhipment of these goods from large boats to small boats is really impressive.

Moreover, there is a gas station next to the market. On a barge, so also floating.

All the little boats that came here and are now getting ready to go back to town, stop for a moment at the gas station to refuel the boat. Really cool thing.



Being at the market, stay a while longer. When renting a boat, please tell them that you would like to sail the side canals. It will be an ideal opportunity to visit a coconut candy factory or a rice noodle factory. Price? renting a boat for 5 hours is usually 300 thousand dongs plus tip 100 thousand. The whole is $ 17.5.

Both are nearby and require about 15 minutes to enter the side channel of the Can Tho River.

Places worth visiting. I will devote a separate article to them.

So let me just mention here that there is such a chance that you can make a proper booking.

I recommend sailing a bit on the canals near the market. You can see the local way of life and enjoy the view of the water coconut trees.

After such a wonderful afternoon and about 4 hours of cruising around the market and surrounding canals by boat, I returned to the center of Can Tho.


Cai Rang - floating market, people living on boats, the swift current of Can Tho river waters, floating restaurants and cafes, all this confirms the words of Heraclitus that... everything flows -  Panta Rhei.


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