Saturday, 5 June 2010

The Floating Markets at Can Tho

The Mekong Delta is Asia’s third longest river, after the Yangstee and Yellow rivers, and his banks are rich in orchards, rice fields and swamplands. Here at the Mekong’s delta, not only does it water the ‘Vietnam’s rice bowl’, but it also serves as a crucial transportation artery, teeming with rowing boats, sampas, ferries and floating markets.

Can Tho was the last city to succumb to the North Vietnamese army on May 1st, one day after the fall of Saigon, and that date had come to represent the absolute reunification of the country.

Sited at the confluence of the rivers Can Tho and Hau Giang, Can Tho is the Delta’s biggest city, major trading centre and transport interchange.

Boat trips along the canals and rivers, through memorable floating markets, are undoubtedly Can Tho’s star attraction.

Every morning an armada of boats takes to the web of waterways spread across Can Tho province making for one of its floating markets. Everything an average villager needs is there, from hair cuts to coffins... thought predictably fruits and vegetables are the most sold products.

Of the three major markets, Cai Rang is the busiest and largest of them all and more touristy as it is closer to town. It can be arranged through Tourist Offices but Miguelito wasn't up for that.

The night before he arranged his own boat driver to take him to the main market first and then proceed to a second market, smaller and further away from the busiest trade centre. It was also agreed, following the driver’s suggestion, that the way back would be slowly done through a web of small secondary canals in order to appreciate people’s daily life.


The markets are at their busiest and boiling activity between 6 and 8am so a really early start would be imperative!

The alarm bells at 4.50am.

Getting downstairs was like if I hadn’t been to bed yet: pitch dark!!

This old wrinkled skinny man was already waiting for me: ‘are you sure this is the right time?? It’s still night!’ I teased him. He didn’t speak any English... Great... I was going to be on a small boat with him for 6 hours...

Unfortunately I forgot this gentleman’s name, but I remember it started with a T. So I will call him Mr.T.

15min walk to the harbour and there it was... The second one counting from the back.

Rather small indeed...

Introducing Mr. T, a nice humble man...

...sitting proud as the morning suns rises!

Almost 6am, people rush to the market.

É tipo ir à Praça pela manhã, só que ao invés de ir no seu chaço ou a pé vão de barca!

Houses decaying along the margins with people living in.

Catholic church in a buddhist nation.

45 minutes ride and we got to the first market. Just before we get too close this boat sudden pulled by us and these kids grab tight to our boat shouting something at us!!

I was confused!


Selling morning coffee... Brrrrrrrrr... illiant!

They quickly do business with us and just as fast as they got glued at us, they vanish... to the next boat! They mean business these boys...

At Cai Rang market

On the left hand-side, a tour boat shifting tourists around.

Met Andrea, a Swiss guy, same age, doing same thing. He was visiting this market only and going back to the harbour. One hour tour.

Andrea was coming from Thailand and Cambodia and was just starting Vietnam. I was on my way to Cambodia and Thailand and had just finished Vietnam. Going on opposite ways, so we chatted for a bit over a mighty strong viet'coffee and exchanged useful information...

So long Andrea! Best luck!

And off we went to the next market, 1 hour away.

Traffic signs.


Aquele belo spot pá pesca...

I desperatly wanted to know what was this boat loaded with...

but Mr.T could not explain me in my vocabulary...

mas não é serralheira!!!!

Floating kitchen serving meals.

Few people own their houses, or shacks, or whatever you want to call it. A large number actually live on the same boats they work on.

Coming into the next market (don’t know the name).

Tradding goods!

Of course with so many engines and water around, a garage too means business here... Clever...

‘Vais ali ó Toh Maneh que ele dá-te um apertozinho na correia!!’


Ou como mais recentemente se tem ouvisto por aí… Carrega Benfica!!!!

Juicy fresh pinapple!!!

Before I start this travels, a good friend in Portugal enlighted me to the fact the Mekong river was considered the most polluted river in the world. We discussed the subject as Ganges river in India could probably challenge this title. I didn’t really research much on it, but being out here I recalled this friend’s wise words...

I mean... This river starts in China, down into Laos, through Thailand, Cambodia and finally Vietnam. There are zillions of people living out here using it and abusing it along the whole river stretch and its tributary rivers: washing, shitting, discarding all sorts of waste; thousands of non-environment friendly small boats, heavy boats burning oil and petrol into it...

Not sure if it’s the most polluted river when it crosses China or even Laos... But down here at the very end Miguelito wouldn’t really wash his ding-dings on it!!

It was a warm windy morning and all of a sudden the water that had been splashing on my face most of the way, sometimes hitting the corner of my lips, didn’t have the same refreshing effect anymore... And the odd foot hanging out of the boat was tucked back in... I have actually been wondering why this right foot has been in such a mess lately...

Oh well...

But hey, do you think they care? Not really...

The way back was made through 'lost' canals


Lunch break.

We’ve been boating for hours so we stopped at this place away of the main stream for lunch. Miguelito was starving. When the food came, noodles soup and beef meal as main course, I tried to make some conversation with Mr. T.

‘So..? ... hmmm... (silence) ... what time is it..?’ I asked trying to break the ice.

’9.40am’ he pointed at the clock.

‘What???? U sure?’

It must have been the earliest lunch I’ve had. It was so hot and we’d been out there for so long I felt it was about 12 or so...

Anyway... I wiped out the plate and had to pay for his lunch!

‘Oh Cah Joh!! Vai lá abaixo oh rio comprar um Caixão, ca tua avó merrêu!!

Ma'nã gastes munte dinheiiire, ouvistES ??’

What an inspiring place to carve your coffins

By 11am the markets where getting empty, by noon the pleasant tour was over and on that same afternoon the bus left to Can Tho, Miguelito's next stop...


  1. Hummm, que belo riozinho para se dar umas banhocas, limpinha mesmo.
    A probabilidade de tomares um banho e os tintins mirrarem e cairem deve ser enorme. CRUZES CANHOTO, LAGARTO LAGARTO LAGARTO....

  2. Não será um lugar aprazível (pela muita poluição), mas o delta deste rio é seguramente um dos cenários mais incomuns e míticos do Mundo. A reportagem fotográfica documenta-o bem e como se vive no delta deste rio. Bom trabalho