Floating markets have become a way of life and trade for Mekong Delta dwellers for over a 100 years, thanks to the complex and extensive river system of the region. Here is a guide to the major (and minor) floating markets of the Mekong Delta.
Nga Bay Floating Market (Hau Giang province)
Nga Bay, also referred to as Phung Hiep floating market, has been open since 1915 – for over a hundred years, it has been a key trading port for the locals in Nga Bay town. Boats stacked with all sorts of vegetables and fruits paint the market in various bright colors. Usually each boat here will only sell one type of good, as displayed on the lateral bar erected out front. Other than fruit, you will also find animals being sold, such as lizards, turtles, iguanas, snakes and birds. If that scares you, don’t worry, they are contained well and won’t go crawling/swimming from one boat to the other.
Nga Bay also starts a little later than most markets and is most vibrant around 07.00 a.m. To get here, you will need to get to Can Tho first from Ho Chi Minh City, which is around a five-hour bus ride. Once you are in Can Tho, it is best to hire a private car through a travel agency or take a taxi to Nga Bay, which is about 19 miles (30 kilometers) from Can Tho city center. Once you reach the bay, you can easily hire a boat to take you around the market and any other interesting sites nearby.
Nga Nam Floating Market (Soc Trang province)
Nga Nam market is the convergent point of five canals, hence the name (nam means five). The Nga Nam river flows in five directions from here:
Nga Nam – My Long, Hau Giang province
Nga Nam – Vinh Quoi, Soc Trang province
Nga Nam – Phung Hiep, Hau Giang province
Nga Nam – Phuoc Long, Bac Lieu Province
Nga Nam – Phu Loc, Soc Trang province
The hustle and bustle found in this market is unmatched by any other floating market found in Vietnam. Being the most central market of the region, you can find most of the Mekong specialties being sold here—boats full of rice, vegetables, fresh fruit from orchards, shrimp, fish, crabs, frogs, and the like. You will even come across the rare boat selling household goods and electronics. The market wakes up around 03:00 a.m. and reaches its peak around 05:00 a.m. so you will need to stay overnight in the town. To reach the market, you will need to take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Cau Mau city which takes around eight hours. From here you will take another shuttle bus to Nga Nam town. A boat to explore the market will cost you a mere dollar.
Cai Rang Floating Market (Can Tho)
Cai Rang is a big wholesale market, and the most popular floating market of the region because of its location and accessibility. It is in fact, the largest floating market in the Delta. You can find all sorts of fruits being sold here, specializing in exotic ones from the region such as Nam Roi grapefruit, Vinh Long pink kiwi kumquat and the Cai Mon durian.
The easiest way to get here is by taking a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho. Then walk your way over (or take a xe om or a taxi) to Ninh Kieu Wharf and then board a boat here, which will take you around 30 minutes to get to the market. It will cost you around USD$15.00 for a private boat. Go early in the morning as the market is best during this time, and plus you can enjoy beautiful views of the sunrise on your way. You can also have breakfast here, you’ll see many boats with plastic chairs available, turning it into a makeshift restaurant. Try some bun ca (fish noodle soup) or hu tieu Sa Dec (dry noodle).
You can take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Long Xuyen, or head to Can Tho first, spend the night and take a taxi/bus/tour early in the morning from there. It will take around one and a half hours.
You can take a bus from Ho Chi Minh City to Vinh Long. It’ll take you around 3 hours, and from there you can take a xe om (motorbike taxi) to the Tra On floating market.
You can get here by road from Cai Rang, however it’s better to opt for a half-day tour that combines Cai Rang and Phong Dien, returning to Can Tho city through quieter backwater canals, offering the true Mekong experience.
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