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No trip to lớn Vietphái nam would be complete without spending a few days checking out the Mekong Delta. Easily accessible by bus from Saigon, the towns & villages on the Mekong River and its tributaries give sầu you a glimpse of a way of life largely unchanged for centuries.

To get a better picture, however, you need lớn leave sầu the safety of the shore and spend some time on the river. One of the best places khổng lồ vì chưng this is in Can Tho – the largest town in the delta – by checking out its well known floating markets.

There are a number of ways khổng lồ see the markets, with vessels of varying sizes và degrees of comfort, và trips ranging from four to lớn eight hours. As seems often the case in Vietphái mạnh, the more organised the tour, the more expensive and less enjoyable it is for the independent traveller. There are large, powerful boats providing a sanitised experience lớn the package holidaymaker, but for something a little more interesting (plus the ability lớn traverse the small waterways on the way baông xã lớn town), opt for a trip by sampan instead.

You will undoubtedly get a hard sell from your hotel manager for a trip of some mô tả tìm kiếm, but you can also try to book directly with the guides down by the docks. I had limited success doing this — anytoàn thân who spoke enough English lớn bargain with at the time seemed to be quoting the same price as the hotel. After getting the price down from a ridiculous $40 to an only slightly less ridiculous $trăng tròn for an eight hour trip, I agreed – with a wince – to lớn be in the lobby at 5.30am the following morning.


After a short walk from the hotel khổng lồ the docks (most accommodation in Can Tho is clustered around the river), I boarded my sampan with a couple of other guys and the driver/guide, Viet. If you end up taking this trip, I’d highly recommover trying lớn get onto Viet’s boat one way or another (see the update below for details).

His English is limited, but absolutely good enough to get his point across, và he has a wicked sense of humour. Whether he is fashioning pineapples inkhổng lồ ice-cream-lượt thích sculptures, weaving bracelets / ear-rings / horns / swords out of plant leaves as he guides his boat along the river, or leading a fruit fight with another sampan driver, you can guarantee that he – & you – will be having plenty of laughs among muốn the sightseeing.

The trip out lớn the first of the two markets wasn’t particularly exciting, as the river is especially polluted this cthảm bại to lớn town & there isn’t much to lớn see except other river traffic and a few shanties dotted along the banks. Once you get lớn the market, though, you start to lớn realise what all the fuss is about.

I’d expected a lot of the activity to be aimed at tourists, but other than a few people on sampans trying to sell you drinks, it really wasn’t. The selection of fruits, fish và other food being bought và sold was quite incredible, including plenty of things you’ll never see on the supermarket shelves in the western world.

The second market is further down the river, & probably even larger than the first. Vendors advertise their wares by way of fruit và vegetables stuông chồng on tall wooden poles, & potential buyers paddle from boat khổng lồ boat lớn choose the best offerings. From sampans packed to the bryên with mangoes to larger vessels selling up khổng lồ half a dozen different options, this is a produce st& with a difference.

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We stopped for an impromptu lunch there, and hacked slices from various delicious fruits until we were too full to lớn take another mouthful. Of the things we bought and tried that I actually know the name of, jackfruit was the standout favourite – it’s a large, brightly coloured fruit that looks a little lượt thích durian, but doesn’t resemble it at all in taste or smell. It has a rubbery texture, & tastes lượt thích a chewy combination of banamãng cầu and mango. Fantastic.

Between the two markets was a side trip down one of the small canals, to take a look at a working rice noodle factory. Typically I would have expected this to lớn be about as exciting as a trip khổng lồ the box factory, but was pleasantly surprised. The ‘factory’ was more of a large shed, with the various stages of production taking place in different areas.

One man was up khổng lồ his elbows in a barrel of rice ‘paste’, for want of a better word, stirring away gently. The rice husks were being used in a small furnace to heat a couple of circular elements, onlớn which a woman was pouring the paste & smoothing it out with what looked like the bottom of a saucepan into lớn a thin, flat circle. While one of the rice circles was briefly cooking, another woman was expertly scooping the other circle off the element và laying it out on a long woven tray.

The next step in the production process was a man gathering several of the trays và carrying them out to lớn dry in the sunshine, before the final dried sản phẩm was loaded into a mechanical slicing machine & turned inkhổng lồ noodles. Nothing was wasted, và the process seemed lớn run lượt thích clockwork. Who would have thought noodle production could be so interesting? Not me, that’s for sure.


The trip back from the markets was in many ways the most enjoyable part – & the piece left off the shorter or more luxurious tours, due khổng lồ lachồng of time or overkích thước vessels. Leaving the main channel khổng lồ head inlớn the canals and small waterways that flow throughout the delta, it was easy lớn see how the river dominates life in this part of Vietphái nam.

While us germ-phobic Westerners on the sampan were trying lớn avoid too much contact with the polluted water, locals were swimming in it, washing clothes, bodies and food with it, pulling fish from it, and often living only slightly above it.

When the river floods – as it does every monsoon season – the impact can be devastating, yet it is this seasonal pattern that allows the Mekong Delta to lớn feed vast swathes of the country. To see life lived in such cthua proximity to – và such symbiosis with – the natural world is a sharp reminder lớn us all of our place on this planet.

Sadly, however, such dependency on the river’s bounty doesn’t seem lớn stop people polluting it at a micro màn chơi, & politicians considering damming its upper reaches at a macro level. Both have sầu potentially catastrophic consequences for the future of the Mekong, và one can only hope common sense prevails before either of these two threats causes irreversible damage.

So overall, despite a numb butt và the occasional dull moment as we slowly meandered our way along the river khổng lồ & from Can Tho, the trip exceeded my expectations. If you find yourself spending any time in the southern reaches of Vietnam giới, I would highly recommkết thúc seeking out the services of Viet & booking yourself on an eight hour exploration of the Mekong and famous floating markets of Can Tho.

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It will show you a side of the country và the region you’re simply unable to experience anywhere else. Oh, & when you get to Monkey Bridge? Be prepared for something rather different lớn what you may have had in mind. That is all I have khổng lồ say about that…

I stayed at Hotel 31 & ultimately booked my trip through the manager there after a hard sell, but if you’re able to lớn get hold of my guide (Viet) down by the docks the afternoon before, try to lớn book with hlặng directly. You’ll get a cheaper trip, but more importantly the money will go straight to the person providing such a great experience rather than simply lining the pockets of middle men. UPDATE: A lovely reader ended up on a tour with Viet, và sent through a copy of his business card. Thanks, Pete! So, if you want to lớn get hold of hlặng directly, here’s how khổng lồ bởi vì it!