Passionate about exploring the unique beauty, culture and cuisine of the Mekong Delta? Then an unforgettable trip to the Cai Rang floating market aboard the Mekong Princess from Victoria Can Tho is a must.
A cultural icon of the delta
Thirty minutes by boat from the Ninh Kieu Wharf, the Cai Rang floating market is located in Cai Rang district, in the city of Can Tho. Considered an icon of the Mekong Delta, the very unique Cai Rang floating market presents a multi-faceted look at cultural life on and by the river.
Visitors to the Cai Rang floating market will first be impressed by the extremely vibrant atmosphere. Find yourself among hundreds of boats selling countless types of goods and products, all against the backdrop of laughter and shouting from the vendors, bargaining by the customers and the wonderful smells of regional specialties like fermented fish hotpot, crab vermicelli soup, sugar cane juice and delicious fresh fruit. It’s truly a feast for all the senses.
To orient yourself amongst all the boat traffic, all you have to do is look up at the poles found at the bow of each boat. Typically, the poles indicate “everything hanging is for sale”, but the people of the Mekong Delta have come up with new signals like “hanging but not selling”, “not hanging but selling” and “hanging this but selling something else” as an ingenious way of communicating between people who live and trade on the river.
More than a must-visit tourist destination in the Mekong Delta, the Cai Rang floating market is also a cultural heritage from Indochina times. Founded in the early 20th century, this floating market connecting the past and the present was named one of the 10 most impressive markets in the world by the UK Rough Guide travel magazine. The beauty of Indochina is vividly seen in each colorful boat, whether old or new, the banter between sellers and buyers, and the bridge with a vintage “Cai Rang Floating Market” sign that’s been there seemingly forever.
Starting from about 6:00 to 6:30 every morning, visitors aboard the Mekong Princess can cruise through the Cai Rang floating market on the Can Tho River during its busiest hours. Guests can enjoy a 4-star resort standard mini buffet breakfast including specialties of the Mekong Delta on the way to the floating market, or save their stomachs to sample dishes that the Cai Rang floating market is known for like crab vermicelli soup, fermented fish soup and other types of noodles.
As the Mekong Princess cruises downstream, visitors will notice how the floating market has evolved over time. In the past, the floating market’s convenient location on the river brought together vendors from all different ethnic groups including Kinh (Vietnamese), Khmer and Chinese. Today, while commerce still happens, in between the boats laden with goods, there are also boats filled with tourists who have come to learn about the river culture of the Mekong Delta.
Right at the Cai Rang floating market, visitors can now also see artists performing Don Ca Tai Tu, a type of traditional folk music recognized by UNESCO as an intangible cultural heritage. Hearing this musical art performed in the national intangible cultural heritage setting of the Cai Rang floating market is truly a quintessential Vietnamese experience not to be missed.
What’s most amazing is that the hundreds of boats at the Cai Rang floating market hardly ever bump into each other. The people of the Delta in general are known for their sincerity, and the people of the river especially so. “Be kind to each other” is a mantra here, whether it’s in buying, selling, sharing or simply looking out for one another. This unique river culture is something that Mekong Princess Cruises and Victoria Can Tho, a member of Thien Minh Group (TMG), Asia’s leading travel group, is committed to preserving with the aim of showcasing the timeless beauty of Indochina to visitors on worthwhile journeys through Vietnam.