On the iconic Mekong River, the Cai Rang floating market gathers thousands of small boats every day to trade from various fruits and vegetables grown in the farms to delicious Vietnamese soups and coffees prepared on board.
Close to the city of Can Tho, the largest city in southern Vietnam with more than a million inhabitants, the day starts early, as the first light of dawn launches the largest floating market of the country. It’s there, at the Cai Rang Market, that the inhabitants of the towns bordering the mouth of the Mekong River, come to sell their crops and buy products to resell in the local markets.
The Cai Rang market provides visitors with a unique and authentic experience of the local people everyday life. Here, where the trade is real and wholesale, merchants buy the goods to supply their retail businesses, in their hometowns.
The best way to visit Cai Rang is to stay from the day before in the city of Can Tho, where you can find hotels of all categories and all the necessary services for tourists.
On the day of the visit you must get up early, the market starts at 5 in the morning and ends before 11am. Plus, the best time to discover the market is at sunrise. From the center of Can Tho, a few steps from the hotels, dozens of small boats will be ready to give you a ride and visit the market.
After about 30 minutes of sailing in a typical local boat, you will find a sign crossing a bridge to welcome you to “Cho Noi Cai Rang“, the floating market of Cai Rang. Immediately, you will be able to see thousands of boats full of merchandise exchanging their products. The largest are anchored, in groups of up to 5 boats and the small ones circulate among them in search of the best prices and products.
To know what each boat sells is very easy, each seller has their products displayed on a long bamboo pole, reminiscent of a mast and its flag. But instead of a flag you will see Watermelons, pineapples, pumpkins, dragon fruits and hundreds of other local products.
Waking up at dawn, you will probably be hungry. But that is not a problem, small boats will come to offer you their meals, such as Pho or Bún Bó (typical soups with rice noodles, vegetables and meat) and if you are still not used to having a delicious soup for breakfast, they also sell baguette sandwiches for all tastes. Do not forget to try the typical Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk and ice, a local delicacy.
And if you’re feeling lucky, you can take a chance at the local lottery. You’ll probably see many boats selling those tickets.
At the end of the visit, you can ask to disembark at the local market located on the banks of the river. There you will be able to witness the retailers market what they previously bought on the river and now selling them to the inhabitants looking for products to cook a nice dish for their families or their restaurants.