Mekong Delta

Mekong delta

Why Go?                     

The ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam, the delta is carpeted in a dizzying variety of greens. It’s a water world that moves to the rhythms of the mighty Mekong, where boats, houses, and markets float upon the innumerable rivers, canals and streams that criss-cross the landscape like arteries.

The bustling commerce of its towns contrasts sharply with the languid, almost soporific pace of life in the countryside. Here buffaloes wallows in rice paddies, coconut, and fruit-laden boats slowly along the mud-brown waters, and two-wheeled exploration of the narrow lanes is amply rewarded with a true taste of rural hospitality (and delicious river fish).

Elsewhere, mangrove forests teem with a wealth of birdlife and bristle with the remains of Viet Cong bunkers, ormate Khmer pagodas and Buddhist temples reach for the sky, while off-coast islands offer white-sand beaches and tropical hideaways to some, pirate havens to others.

When to Go

January While they shiver up north, Phu Quoc’s beaches stay temperate and dry.

March A March visit avoids the Tet madness, and the summer heat and rain.

November The dry season starts, with Khmer longboat festivals in Tra Vinh and Soc Trang.

History

Once part of the  Khmer kingdom, the Mekong Delta was the last region of modern-day Vietnam to be annexed and settled by the Vietnamese. Cambodians, mindful that they controlled the until the 18th century, still call the delta Kampuchea Krom, or ‘Lower Cambodia’.

The Khmer Rouge attempted to reclaim the area by raiding Vietnamese villages and killing their inhabitants. This provoked the Vietnamese army to invade Cambodia on 25 December 1978 and oust the Khmer Rouge from power.

Most of today’s inhabitants of the Mekong Delta are ethnic Vietnamese, but significant populations of ethnic Chinese and Khmer, as well as a smaller Cham community, also exist.

When the government introduced collective farming to the delta in 1975, production fell significantly and food shortages hit Saigon, although farmers in the delta easily grew enough head downto the delta to by sacks of black-market rice, but to prevent profiteering the police set up checkpoints and cofiscated rice from anyone carrying more than 10kg. all this ended in 1986 and farmers in this region have since transformed Vietnam into one of the world’s largest rice exporters.

Getting There & Around

Many travelers visit the Mekong Delta on convenient organized tours. Those traveling on their own will have greater access to little-visited areas off the beaten track.

The ease of border crossings between Vietnam and Cambodia, including the river border at Vinh Xuong (near Chau Doc) and the land border at Xa Xia (near Ha Tien), has increased traveler traffic along these delta routes. Cambodian visas are available on arrival at all border crossings.

AIR

Flights head from Hanoi and Dalat to Can Tho, Hanoi to Rach Gia and from Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) ro Rach Gia and Ca Mau. Phu Quoc Island’s international airport welcomes flights from Hanoi, HCMC, Can Tho, and Rach Gia.

BOAT

Some delta towns have boat connections between them. Though with road improvement and the building of bridges passenger travel on water is declining, the journey between Ca Mau and Rach Gia is particularly scenic. Fast passenger ferries to Phu Quoc Island leave from Rach Gia and Ha Tien, the latter also served by car ferries. Cargo boats and infrequent passenger boats head to the remote southern islands.

BUS

It’s easy to travel the delta using public transport, and bus connections are excellent. Each urban center has a main bus station for both buses and minibusses - although it’s usually located on the edge of town, requiring a short xe om (motorbike taxi) or taxi ride to your hotel. Minibusses tend to stop more frequently than large buses and some can become very cramped.

The most comfortable buses between towns tend to be the plush air-conditioned ones run by several private companies; the most extensive network is run by Phuong Trang (www.futaexpress.com). These bus companies sometimes depart from their own bus terminals; most lodgings in the delta can both suggest the best bus company for your journey and book tickets in advance so that a free shuttle delivers you from your hotel to the bus station.

Coming from HCMC, delta leave from Mien Tay bus station, 10km west of the center. To avoid the sligh inconvenience of reaching Mien Tay, consider booking one of the cheap day tours to My Tho departing from D Pham Ngu Lao and abandoning the tour after the boat trip.

CAR, MOTORCYCLE & BICYCLE

The most flexible transport option is by private car, bicyle or rented motorbike. Two-wheeling around the delta is good fun, especially along the maze of country roads and on Phu Quoc. Be prepared for toll roads and ferry crossing - although these are gradually being replaced with new bridges. Ferries are cheap and frequent. If you don’t wish to cycle solo, Sinhbalo Adventure Travel (083-8376766; www.sinhbalo.com) and Vietnam Backroads (083-83705832; www.mekongbiketours.com) offer multiday jaunts around the delta.

TOURS

Dozens of tours head from HCMC to the Mekong Delta, either as day trips or longer jaunts. This is a good option if you’re short on time, but it means abdicating control over your itinerary and choice of hotels.

The cheapest tours are sold around the Pham Ngu Lao area. Shop around before you book, talk to other travellers and consult internet forums. Pricey tours are not necessarily better, but often ‘rock-bottom’ means travelling with dozens of other tourists and being shujjled from one souvenir stall to another. Rewarding motorbike and scooter tours of the Delta are run by Vietnam Vespa Adventure and Saigon Riders.

My Tho

Gateway to the Mekong Delta, My Tho is the capital of Tien Giang province and an important market town - although for the famous floating markets, you’ll need to continue on to Can Tho.

My Tho’s proximity to HCMC means it’s a popular day-trip destination for a taste of river life - a flotilla of boats tour the local islands and their cottage industries daily,though many bypass the tour itself. The riverfront makes for a pleasant stroll and the town, including the lively market (D Trung Trac), is easily explored on foot.

My Tho was founded in the 1680s by Chinese refugees fleeing Taiwan after the fall of the Southern Ming dynasty. The economy is based on tourism, fishing and the cultivation of rice, coconuts, bananas, mangoes, longans and citrus fruit.

Sights

Vinh Trang Pagoda

Giant Buddla statues tower over the beautiful grounds of this peaceful temple around 1km east of the city centre, where the monks maintain an ornate sanctuary, decorated with carved and gilded wood.they also provide a home for children in need; donations welcome.

To get here, head north on Le Loi, turn right onto Nguyen Trai and cross the bridge. After 400m turn left onto Nguyen Trung Truc. The entrance is located about 200m froom the turn-off, on the right-hand side.

Tours

In a prominent building on the riverfront, the My Tho Tourist Boat Station is home to several tour companies offering cruises to the neighboring islands and through the maze of small canals. Depending on what you book, destinations usually include a coconut-candy workshop, a honey farm (try the banana wine) and an orchid garden. A boat tour costs around 400,000d for one person or 500,000d for two. If you’re a day-tripper, it’s easiest to boook your package ( including connecting transport) through a HCMC-based tour operator. Prices are significantly better if you can join in a group, although you may be able to negotiate a more flexible itinerary if you go it alone.

Tien Giang Tourist

Reliable boat operator. Three-hour tours to Thoi Son and Phoenix island cost 95,000d per person if there’s a group.

Sleeping

Song Tien Annex

First, the good news: there are river views from balconies, the location is handy and central, bathrooms come with freestanding claw-footed bathtubs (rare as unicorn eggs in Vietnam!) and the staff are sweet (even though you have to be good at expressing yourself through mime). Now the bad: fittings are tired and six-legged scuttling friends sometimes show up.

Minh Kieu Hotel

It’s central, its tiled rooms are spick-and-span and while this multistorey beauty probably won’t make your social media posts, the location, value for money, good breakfast and the helpfulness of its staff in spite of Babylonian issues all work in this hotel’s favour.

Island Lodge

It’s hard to imagine a more tranquil placethan this island hideaway. At this intimate luxury hotel, the occupantsf its 12 rooms are cheerfully attended to by professional staff. You can watch the goings-on on the river from the riverside pool, idulge in gourmet cuisine, or retreat to your light, bright room, complete with comtemporary art and bamboo-framed beds.

After crossing the bridge from My Tho in the Ben Tre direction, take the turn towards Thoi Son and Travel for another 3km or so.

Eating

My Tho is known for its vermicelli soup, hu tieu My Tho, richly garnished with fresh and dried seafood, pork, chicken, offal and fresh herbs. It is served either with broth or dry and can also be made vegetarian.

Although hu tieu can be found at almost any eatery in town, there’s a handful of specialty restaurants. Carnivores should try Hu Tieu 44 (D Nam Ky Khoi Nghia soup 25,000d), while vegetarians can indulge at Hu Tieu Chay 24 (24 D Nam Ky Khoi Nghia; mains 15,000-24,000d).

Night Market

(D 30 thang 4; meals from 30,000d) Plonked right in front of the floating restaurant, this popular place packs in dners come evening, with a host of live4ly hotpot and fish stalls.

Chi Thanh

(279 D Tet Mau Than; meals 50,000-100,000d) This small but extremely popular restaurant does a steady trade in tasty Chinese and Vietnamese fare (beef, chicken, pork, squid, crab, noodles, hotpots). There’s an English menu.

Ngoc Gia Trang

(196 D Ap Bac; meals 80,000-200,000d) This friendly spot, down a lane off the main road into My Tho from HCMC, is justifiably popular with tour groups thanks to the excellent, beautifully presented local specialties, such as elephant-ear fish, pork meatballs and a tangy, sour soup.

Getting There & Around

New bridges and freeways have considerably shortened travel distances to My Tho. If heading to Ben Tre,a taxi (around 260,000d) or xe om (around 120,000d) are considerably faster than buses.

Tien Giang Bus Station (42 D Ap Bac) The bus station is 2,3km north-west of town, on the main Highway 1A towards HCMC. A xe om into town should cost around 40,000d.

Around My Tho

Phoenix Island

Until his imprisonment for anti-government activities and the consequent dispersion of his flock, the Coconut Monk (Dao Dua) led a small community on Phoenix Island (Con Phung), a few kilometers from My Tho. The Coconut Monk left his family to pursue a monastic life and for three years he sat on a stone slab under a flagpole and meditated day and night.

In its heyday the island was dominated by a somewhat trippy open-air sanctuary. The dragon-emblazoned columns and quirky tower, with its huge metal globe, must have once been brightly painted, but these days the whole place has become faded, rickety and silent. Nevertheless, it is seriously kitsch, with a model of the Apollo rocket st among the Buddhist statues. With some impagination you can almost picture how it all must have appeared as the Coconut Monk presided over his congregation, flanked by enormous elephant tusks and seated on a richly ornamented throne.

Plaques on the 3.5m-high porcelain jar on the island tell-all about the Coconut Monk. He founded a religion, Tinh Do Cu Si, a fusion of Buddhism and Christianity. Representations of Jesus and the Buddha appeared together, as did the Virgin Mary and eminent Buddhist women together with the cross and Buddhist symbols. Today only the symbols remain, as the Tinh Do Cu Di community has dissolved from the island.

Private boat operators can include the island as part of an organized tour.

Other Islands

Farmed for its longan orchards, Dragon Island (Con Tan Long) makes for a pleasant stop and stroll, just a five-minute boat trip from My Tho. Some of the residents of the island are shipwrights and the lush, palm-fringed shores are lined with wooden fishing boats. The island has some small restaurants and cafes.

Tortoise Island (Con Qui) and Unicorn Island (Thoi Son) are popular stops for the coconut candy and banana wine workshops.

Ben Tre

The picturesque little province of Ben Tre was always one ferry beyond the tourist traffic of My Tho and consequently developed at a more languid pace, although new bridges connecting Ben Tre with My Tho and Tra Vinh funneled more visitors into the area. The town’s sleepy waterfront, lined with aging villas, is easy to explore on foot, as is the rustic settlement across the bridge to the south of the center. This is also a good place to arrange boat trips in the area, particularly for those wanting to escape the tour bus bustle. Plus, the riverside promenade and the narrow lanes on both sides of the river are ideal for two-wheeled exploration.

The Ben Tre area is famous for its keo dua (coconut candy). Many local women work in small factories making these sweets, spending their days boiling cauldrons of the sticky coconut goo before rolling it out and slicing sections off into squares.

Tours

Ho Chi Minh-based Sinhbalo and Mekong Bike Tours offer cycling trips that take in the best of the narrow lanes around Ben Tre.

Mango Cruises

Unlike cookie-cutter tours from HCMC, Mango Cruises focuses on the less-visited back roads and canals around Ben Tre and beyond.day tours comprise a nice mix of cyclin, dining on local specialties and observing how rice paper and other local staples are made. Longer tours include outings on its day cruisers and multiday boat trips in the delta.

Sleeping

All the following options are located near Ben Tre rather than in the town proper; all offer meals.

Mango Hone Riverside

Set amid coconut and mango trees along the bank of a Mekong tributary, this delightful mango-colored B&B, run by a Canadian-Vietnamese couple,  provides a welcome place to unwind. Spacious bathrooms and there are hammocks for lounging. The food is excellent and at night there’s complete silence. It’s 10km out of town; call for pick-up.

Oasis Hotel

There’s always a warm welcome at this popular, bright-yellow, small hotel, run by an affable and very helpful couple. It’s in the village south of the river and best reached by taxi. Free bicycles facilitate countryside exploration,

Hong Thai Homestay

Mr.Thai and his wife make a formidable team: he arranges excursions for his guests amid the coconut groves around their countryside home, and she cooks veritable mountains of delicious local staples to feed them. Rooms are simple, fan-cooled and tiled. Located around 12km from Ben Tre, across the river from My Tho; arrange pick-up with the owners.

Eating & Drinking

For ultra-cheap eats, head to the market, where plenty of food stalls (dishes around 15,000d) await. Ham Luong’s rooftop cafe is good for a drink or an ice cream.

Thuy Pizza

Adding a welcome touch of innovation to Ben Tre’s largely uninspiring dining scene, this friendly place attracts a healthy contingent of travelers and curious locals. The pizza is as good as can be expected in a small-town delta place, and owner Thuy is friendly and keen to practice her English.

Nam Son

Centrally located, this place attracts a lively local crowd thanks to its popular grilled chicken, best washed down with draught beer.

Getting There & Away

BUS

Buses to Vinh Long drop you at Pha Dinh Kao, the ferry port across the river from town; take the ferry across.

Bus Stations Buses stop at the bus station 2.5km northwest of the town center. The last buses to HCMC depart between 4 pm and 5 pm; Thinh Phat is among the most comfortable.

Tra Vinh

The boulevards of Tra Vinh, one of the prettiest towns in the Mekong Delta, are still lined with shady trees, harking back to an earlier era. With more than 140 Khmer pagodas dotting the province, Tra Vinh is a quiet place for exploring the Mekong’s little-touted Cambodian connection. The town itself sees a little more tourist traffic now that it’s linked to Ben Tre and beyond by large new bridges.

About 300,000 ethnic Khmer live in Tra Vinh province. They may seem an invisible minority as they all speak fluent Vietnamese and there’s nothing outwardly distinguishing about their clothing or lifestyle. Dig a bit deeper and discover that Khmer culture is alive and well in these parts of Vietnam. Many of its numerous pagodas have schools to teach the Khmer language and many Tra Vinh locals can read and write Khmer at least as well as Vietnamese. Vietnam’s Khmer minority are almost all followers of Theravada Buddhism. Between the ages of 15 and 20, most boys set aside a few months to live as monks (they decide themselves on the length of service). Khmer monks are allowed to eat a meal, but cannot kill animals.

There is also a small but active Chinese community in Tra Vinh, one of the few such communities that remain in the Mekong Delta region. 

Sights

Ba Om Pond & Ang Pagoda

Five kilometers south-west of Tra Vinh, this large, square pond is a favorite with local picnics and a spiritual site for the Khmers. It would have once served as a bathing pond for the 10th-century Angkor-era temple that was situated here.

Built on the temple ruins, Ang Pagoda is a venerable Khmer-style Pagoda, fusing classic Khmer architecture with French colonial influences. The interior features brightly painted scenes from the Buddha’s life and the friendly monks may try chatting to you.

Opposite the pagoda entrance is the nicely presented Khmer Minority People’s Museum, which displays photos, costumes and other artifacts of traditional Khmer culture.

Ong Pagoda

The very ornate, brightly painted Ong Pagoda is a fully-fledged Chinese pagoda and a very active place of worship. The red-faced god on the altar is deified general Quan Cong, who is believed to offer protection against wear and is based on a historical figure, a 3rd-century soldier.

The Ong Pagoda was founded in 1556 by the Fujian Chinese Congregation but has been rebuilt and restored a number of times, most recently thanks to funds from visitors from Taiwan and Hong Kong.

Hang pagoda

This modern Khmer pagoda is also known as the Stork Pagoda after the birds that nest in the tall trees here. It’s a beautiful, peaceful complex and watching dozens of white egrets and storks wheeling overhead is an attraction in itself, but bring a hat. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to see the orange-robed acolytes beat the heck out of the enormous drum in the courtyard. The pagoda is located 6km south of town, about 300m past the bus station.

Tours

Tra Vinh Tourist

Helpful tourist office where some English is spoken. Arranges trips to various sites around the province, including boat cruises to local islands.

Sleeping

Tra Vinh Place

Dominating the corner of a tree-lined backstreet, this four-story hotel is all pink columns, decorative plasterwork, mother-of-pearl-inland wooden furniture (in the lobby) and balconies. The spacious rooms have high ceilings but the air-con struggles to keep them cool.

Tra Vinh Palace 2

This friendly mini-hotel has sparkling rooms with tiled floors and either a bath-tub or a slub (shower tub). Double rooms are internal and windowless, so consider upgrading to a triple..

Hotel Gia Hoa 2

Hard to miss due to its height and its bright-yellow exterior, this brash hotel is surprisingly pleasant inside. Expect large rooms, separate shower stalls and a lift to haul your luggage up.

Eating & Drinking

Quan Bun Nem Nuong

( 12 Nguyen Dang) South of the center, this informal joint is justifiably popular with locals for its nem nuong - roll-your-own spring rolls filled with pork sausage, green banana, star fruit, cucumber, and fresh herbs, with a peanut sauce for dipping.

Vi Huong

(37a Dien Bien Phu) Cheap, cheerful hole-in-the-wall with wholesome traditional dishes such as sour soup, fish in clay pot and pork with rice.

Thanh Tra Restaurant

( 1 Pham Thai Buong) On the top floor of the namesake hotel, the restaurant offers an extensive menu of Vietnamese dishes. The service can be so laid-back that you catch them taking a nap, but we can vouch for the spring rolls and the grilled squid.

Cafe de Paris

( 200 Pham Ngu Lao) with a stylish interior and upmarket aspirations, this cafe wouldn’t look out of place in Ho Chi Minh City. The friendly proprietor speaks some English, the wide range of coffees is complemented by some seriously good cakes and there are some light bites as well. It’s a 1km walk north of the center.

Getting There & Away

BOAT

A cargo boat still piles its slow way between Tra Vinh and Ben Tre and can take on passengers.

BUS

Most buses leave from the main bus station, though some operators leave from their own departure points. Bear in mind that only the smaller minibusses bound for Vinh Long take you to the Vinh Long central bus station; larger buses from Tra Vinh either use the bus station out of the center or drop you along the main road outside the center.

Long-Distance Bus Station The main bus station is about 5km south of the town center on Hwy 54, which is the continuation of the main street, Dien Bien Phu st.

Vinh Long

The capital of Vinh Long province, plonked about midway between My Tho and Can Tho, Vinh Long is a major transit hub. Flee the mayhem by heading to the riverfront, where a handful of cafes and restaurants afford respite. Vinh Long is the gateway to island life, the Cai Be Floating Market, abundant orchards and rural homestays.

Sights

Vinh Long’s main draw are the tranquil islands dotting the river, with houses built on stilts and slow-paced agricultural life.

An Binh

The more popular and easiest island to visit is An Binh. You can take the public ferry across and then walk or cycle around on your own. Most island homestays organize half-day cruises along narrow canals for around US$20, taking in the floating market and then slowly floating along the picturesque backwaters.

Cai Be Floating Market

This river market is still the principal attraction on a boat tour from Vinh Long, though it has shrunk considerably due to the building of bridges in the delta and the subsequent transportation of goods by road rather than river. The market is at its best around 6 am. Wholesalers on big boats moor here, each specializing in different types of fruit or vegetable, hanging samples of their goods from tall wooden poles. It’s an hour by boat from Vinh Long.

A notable sight is the huge and photogenic Catholic cathedral on the riverside.

Most people make detours along the way there or back to see the canals or visit orchards. For those who are traveling on an organized tour of the delta, it is customary to board a boat here, explore the islands and moor in Vinh Long before continuing to Can Tho.

Van Thanh Mieu Temple

( Tran Phu) sitting in pleasant grounds across from the river, this temple is southeast of town. Confucian temples such as this are rare in southern Vietnam. The front hall honors local hero Phan Thanh Gian, who led an uprising against the French colonists in 1930. When it became obvious that his revolt was doomed, Phan killed himself rather than be captured by the colonial army. The rear hall, built-in 1866, has a portrait of Confucius above the altar.

Tours

Cuu Long Tourist

(2 Phan Boi Chau) offers a variety of boat tours ranging from three hours to three days. Destinations include small canals, fruit orchards, brick kilns, conical palm hat workshop and the Cai Be Floating Market.

Sleeping

Since Vinh Long’s biggest draw is its islands and there’s much better accommodation in Ben Tre, Tra Vinh and Can Tho, there isn’t much point in staying in town. But if you must, there are a couple of passable options.

Cuu Long Hotel

( from 470,000 to 610,000d) The glory days of this government-run hotel are behind it, but the location is spot-on, with boats to the islands leaving from directly across the road. Rooms are spacious and have baths ,and either balconies or river views.

Eaing & Drinking

Dong Khanh

( 49 2 thang 9 st) Cavernous Dong Khanh (the name means “celebrate together”) offers a varied menu, includiing hotpots, pork noodles, roast chicken and Cantonese rice, though it’s a bit stingy with the prawns and seems to be resting on its laurels.

Vinh Long Market

(3 thang 2 st) Great spot for local fruit and inexpensive street snacks, such as nem (fresh spring rolls).

Hoa Nang Cafe

(1 thang 5 St) Perched on the riverbank, this is a good place to enjoy a ca phe sua da or scented tea in the morning or to quaff your first beer back on dry land after a river trip.

Getting There & Away

BUS

Some buses passing by Vinh Long en route to HCMC from Tra Vinh may drop you off at the corner of Pho Co Dieu and Nguyen Hue as they don’t stop at either of the bus stations.

Buses leave hourly for Can Tho (50,000d, one hour) and HCMC (105,000, three hours). There are several daily buses to Sa Dec (15,000, one hour) and Tra Vinh (70,000)

City Bus Station The central bus station has small bus services to Sa Dec and HCMC.

Provincial Bus Station Long distance services to HCMC and other delta destinations, excluding Sa Dec. it’s 2.5km south of town on the way to Can Tho. A taxi costs around 130,000d.

Can Tho

The experience of the Mekong Delta, Can Tho is the largest city in the region and feels like a metropolis after a few days exploring the backwaters. As the political, economic, cultural and trasportation centre of the Mekong Delta, its a buzzing town with a lively waterfront lined with sculpted gardens, an appealing blend of narrow backstreets and wide boulevards, and perhaps the greatest concentration of foreigners in the delta. It is also the perfect base for nearby floating markets, the major draw for tourists who come here to boat along the many canals and rivers leading out of town.

Sights

Ong Temple

In a fantastic location facing the Can Tho River and decorated with huge incense coils, this Chinese temple is set inside the Guangzhou Assembly Hall, and wandering through its interior is very enjoyable. It was originally built in the late 19th century to worship Kuang Kung, a deity symbolising loyalty, justice, reason, intelligence, honour and courage, among other merits.

Approaching the engraved screen, the right side is dedicated to the Goddess of Fortune and the left side is reserved for the worship of General Ma Tien. In the centre of the temple is Kuang Kung flanked by the God of Earth and the God of Finance.

Can Tho Museum

This large, well-presented museum brings local history to life with manikins and life-size reproductions of building including a Chinese pagoda and a house interior. Displays (with ample English translations) focus on the Khmer and Chinese communication ties, plant and fish speciments, rice production and, inevitably,, the American War.

Munireangsey Pagoda

This pagoda was originally built in 1946 to serve Can Tho’s Khmer community. The ornamentation is typical of Khmer Theravada Buddhist pagodas, with none of the multiple Bodhisattvas and Taoist spirits common in Vietnamese Mahayna pagodas.

Tours

Hieu’s Tour

Young, enthusiastic, English-speaking guide Hieu offers excellent tours around Can Tho-from early morning jaunts to the floating market to cycling tours, food tours and even visits to Pirate Island further afield. Hieu is keen to show visitors true delta culture and a floating homestay is in the works.

Mekong Tours

Based at Xoai Hotel, this operator offers highly recommended tours of the floating markets, as well as entertaining nightly street food tour that departs the hotel at 6.30pm.

Sleeping

Can Tho boasts the best range of acommodation that is available in the Mekong Delta, as well as guesthouses that are located in the nearby countryside.

Xoai Hotel

Fantastic value at this friendly, efficient hotel with bright, mango-colored (the hotel means ‘Mango Hotel’), airy rooms. Helpful staff speak excellent english and there’s a roof terrace with hammocks.

Thanh ha

You’ll find this guesthouse with a clutch of large, sparkling white rooms down a narrow alley-way that bustles quietly with local life. Ms Ha -the proprietor -is a charater, and she can help arrange tours and rent you a bicycle or motorbike.

Nguyen Shack Can Tho

Not a shack, but rather a clutch of rustic thatched bungalows, this great place overlooks the Ong Tim River, situated 6km from Can Tho. It’s the kind of place where backpackers are inspired to linger longer, thanks to the camaraderie between staff and guests. The engaging boat and bicycle tours and the proximity to Cai Rang floating markets are bonuses.

Kim Lan Hotel

This very clean minihotel has chic rooms with contemporary furnishings and artworks in the wall. Even the cheapest, windowless standard rooms are perfectly adequate, and deluxe rooms are lovely. Staff are friendly and helpful.

Minh Viet Homestay

Situated closer to the Cai Rang floating market than Can Tho, this is a rustic guesthouse consisting of basic rooms with mozzie nets and thatched roofs. Minh and his family are welcoming, congenial hosts, and he’s happy to take guests on whirlwind tours of the countryside and the floating markets. Bring earplugs to blockout the chugging of early-morning boats.

And Dao Mekong Hotel

A handy central location, spacious, contemporary rooms and very helpful staff define this neon-fronted hotel. Breakfast is extensive and tours get good travellers feedback, even if the staff can sometimese be overly enthusiastic in selling them.

Victoria Can Tho Resort

Designed with a French colonial look, the breezy rooms at this stylish, sophisticated  hotel are set amid  lush greenery around an inviting pool that looks out over the river. Facilities include an excellent restaurant, an open-air bar and riverside spa. Activities on offer include cycling tours, cooking classes and cruises on the Lady Hau, a converted rice barge.

Nam Bo Boutique Hotel

Presiding over a mere eight suites in a colonial-era building, this super central riverfront hotel revels in traditional presentation and contemporary elegance, although service can be rather flat. The Nam Bo suite is the loveliest, while corner suite No 8 can suffer from noise. Excellent restaurants on the top floor, and at ground level.

Eating & Drinking

‘Hotpot Alley’is the place for fish and duck hotpots, with restaurants stuffed into an alley (Hem 1) between Mau Than St and Ly Tu Trung st east of Xoai Hotel.

Nem Nuong Thanh Van

The only dish this locally acclaimed little spot does is the best nem nuong in town. Roll your own rice rolls using the ingredients provided: pork sausage, rice paper, green banana, star fruit, cucumber and a riot of fresh herbs, then dip into the peanut-and-something-else sause, its secret jealously guarded. Simple and fantastic!

Night Market

Every evening the space between Phan Boi Chau and Phan Chu Trinh streets comes alive with dozens of bustling food stalls, selling grilled meats and tofu on skewers, as well as sweet sticky rice, fresh sugarcane juice and more.

Quan Com Chay Cuong

Located around the back of the Munireangsey pagoda, this is one of the better com chay (vegetarian) eateries in the city. The vegetable, rice and mock-meat dishes (includiiing mock-chicken hotpot) are nicely prepared and the service is friendly. Order from English menu or point at what you like at the buffet.

CoopMart

An immense,well-stocked supermarket.

Mekong

Looking onto busy Hai Ba Trung, this travellers’ favorite has a good blend of local and international food at reasonable prices,though it’s a case of quantity over quality. Try the tangy soup with fish and the passionfruit creme brulee.

L’Escale

With tantalising river view on the top of the Nam Bo Hotel and subdued romantic lighting, this is the place to canoodle with your sweetie over glasses of wine from the strong wine list and beautifully executed dishes such as claypot fish with pinapple, sauteed garlic shrimp with spinach and smoked duck salad.

Nam Bo

With a charming, romantic Mediterranean feel, this restaurant does a good mix of Vietnamese and Western dishes. We’re fans of the lemongrass chickenand grilled sea bass in banana leaf; bananas flambeed in rice wine add a rum touch to the meal. The six-dish set menu (280,000d) is a steal.

Spices Restaurant

Go for a table overlooking the river at this fine restaurant, refined without being stuffy, and opt for the beautifully presented trio of salads (green papaya, banana flower, green mango) or the assortment starter for two, and follow up with deep-fried elephant fish or pork-stuffed squid. Lamb shanks and seared duck eater to homesick palates and the desserts are magnificent.

Getting There & Away

AIR

Can Tho is served by Vietnam Airlines, Vietjet Air and VASCO, with flights to Dalat (one hour, twice weekly), Danang (daily), Hanoi(three daily) and Phu Quoc (one hour, daily)

Can Tho International Airport The airport is 10km northwest of the city centre. A taxi into town will cost around 220,000d.       

BOAT

There are several boat services to other cities in the Mekong Delta, including hydrofoils to Ca Mau (300,000d, three to four hours), passing through Phung Hiep.

BUS

Bus Station All buses now depart from the main bus station, 2.5km northwest of the centre. A  xe om into town costs around 50,000d.

Getting Around

Short hops on a xe om cost around 20,000d. rural areas of Can Tho province, renowned for their durian, mangosteen and orange orchards, can be easily reached from Can Tho by boat or bicycle.

Sights

Cai Rang Floating Market

Just 6km from Can Tho in the direction of Soc Trang is Cai Rang, the biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta. There is a bridge here that serves as a great vantage point for photography. The market is best around 6am to 7am, and it’s well worth getting here early to beat boatloads of tourists. This is a wholesale market, so look at what’s tied to the long pole above the boat to figure out what they’re selling to smaller traders.

Cai Rang can be seen from the road, but getting here is far more interesting by boat (US$10 to US$15). From the market area in Can Tho it takes about 45 minutes by river, or you can drive to the Cau Dau Sau boat landing (by the Dau Sau Bridge), from where it takes about 10 minutes to reach the market.

Phong Dien Floating Market

The Mekong Delta’s most intimate and best floating market, Phong Dien has fewer motorized craft and more standup rowing boats, with local vender shopping and exchanging gossip. Less crowded than Cai Rang, there are also far fewer tourists. It’s at its bustling best between

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                        Source: Lonely Planet Vietnam                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    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