No trips to the land of Mekong would be complete without a visit to floating markets, which are normally opens from the early morning till 9:00. There are six popular floating markets including Cho Gao, Phong Dien, Cai Be, Phung Hiep and Cai Rang floating markets, of which the Phung Hiep market is regarded as the biggest one because of its location at the intersection of 7 major canals. Cai Rang and Phong Dien are two other renowned floating markets in Mekong.
A busy Cai Rang in the early morning of a day
Cho Gao Floating Market
If you choose to depart from Ho Chi Minh City in the early morning, you can take a comfortable bus to arrive in Can Duoc, where you will be on cruise to visit the Cho Gao floating market.
Tourists pay much interest when they have chance to participate in the daily life of local people in Cho Gao floating market, which is considered as a melting pot of colors, shapes, sounds and smells. You can buy everything there like rice, fresh tropical fruit, fish, handicrafts, bonsais, etc. The floating market is also a good place to find some nice souvenirs for the loved-ones at home!
Phong Dien Floating Market
Phong Dien floating market in the early morning
Visiting the markets, tourists are fascinated with lots of boats mostly full of fruits along with coconuts, vegetables and fishes, along with other products from the Southern land. Actually, a large floating market is not complete without its floating restaurants, floating gas stations and an occasional tour boats filled with tourists.
Bananas on boat in Phong Dien floating market
Phong Dien is the best floating market in the Mekong Delta with fewer motorized craft and more stand-up rowing boats. It’s not as crowded as the floating market of Cai Rang and attracts far fewer tourists. The time between 6:00 and 8:00 sees the bustling market with lots of local activities on board.
Cai Be Floating Market
Although Cai Be floating market is open all day from 5:00 to 17:00, the best time to visit is from the early morning. Wholesalers in Cai Be purchase their products from big boats, each of which is specializing in one or a few types of fruit or vegetable. Customers go to the market in smaller boats and thus, customers can easily find what they need since the larger boats hang samples of their goods from tall wooden poles.
Cai Be Floating Market in Mekong Delta
Cai Be Floating Market in Tien Giang Province
Boat of longans in Cai Be floating market
Mango boat in Cai Be floating market
The huge Catholic cathedral on the riverside is the Cai Be’s unique highlight, which you can’t see at other floating markets in this Mekong region. It’s a popular and fantastic backdrop for capturing photographs.
From Vinh Long Province, you have to spend one hour on boat to reach the Cai Be floating market. However, most people make detours on the way there or back in order to sightsee the canals as well as to visit the regional abundant orchards.
Phung Hiep Floating Market
Sunrise over Phung Hiep floating market
Similar to Cai Be, the Phung Hiep floating market is held all day long, but the noisiest and busiest time is in the morning. In the previous evening, every boat full of seasonal vegetables and fruits such as mangoes, durians, bananas, oranges and coconuts … leave their villages to head for the sunrise market of the next day. Some of boats are covered with roofs, some are not. On each boat without roof, sellers have to hold high a stick hanging with fruits as signals. Particularly, you can observe that market-goers in Phung Hiep floating market do not bargain their products.
Normally, fruits are sold and brought to big boats in the market. They will be then transported to some fruit-processing factories or to Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau, even to Hanoi and some Northern provinces.
Cai Rang Floating Market
Opening all day but busiest from sunrise to about 9:00 is the Cai Rang Floating market with main item sold of farm products and specialties of Cai Rang Town, Chau Thanh District and ita vicinity. Every boat has a long upright pole at its bow on which samples of the goods for sale are hung.
Cai Rang, one of the busiest floating markets in Mekong Delta
During the early morning market hours, larger sized boats anchor and create lanes that smaller boats weave in and out of. The waterway becomes a maze of hundreds of boats packed with mango, bananas, papaya, pineapple, and even smuggled goods like cigarettes. Sellers do not have to cry out about their goods because their goods can be seen in a distance and their cries would not be heard in the vastness of the river and the noise of boat engines. Small boats that sell beer, soft drinks and wine go among the other boats to serve market-goers and visitors. Sellers tie their goods to a tall pole so that buyers can see from a distance what they are selling.
Purchasing in the “flower shop” at Cai Rang Floating Market
Each boat is loaded with plenty of seasonal goods. Activities at the market are also an occasion for tourists to study the cultural aspects of southerners.
To visit Cai Rang Floating Market, visitors can join a tour of the Mekong Delta. On the way to Can Tho, visitors can stop to visit My Tho and take a boat trip to visit orchards, bee farms and coconut candy establishments in Ben Tre.