One day is just about enough to spend in Can Tho, to cover the major attractions of the city. You can spend more time there of course, but the Mekong Delta has other provinces that are worth exploring too. Here is how we would get the most out of a day in Can Tho city.
Breakfast on a boat
Wake up early in the morning, and make your way over to the Ninh Kieu Wharf, which is a few minutes from Can Tho city center. Make sure to get there around 5 a.m. Here you will have to find a boat to take you to Cai Rang Floating Market. This is not a hard task, and it will cost you about USD$2-5.00, depending on the kind of boat you choose. It will take you around 30 minutes to reach the market, but you will have beautiful views of the sunrise as your boat tackles the gentle morning waves.
At the Cai Rang floating market you are able to observe your typical market activities, but this is all done on boats. You’lll see all sorts of colorful vessels with fruits and vegetables stacked two or three feet high. People trade them from one boat to another. Other boats sell cooked food or coffee, and some are people’s homes. You’ll see a kitchen at the back, or clutters of washed clothes and laundry hanging out to dry. It’s fascinating to see how people have adjusted their lives to live on the water.
If you want to buy something and wish to see what a boat is selling, check the giant bamboo pole erected out the front of the boat, this will display samples of what is available. Eat your breakfast out here too. There’s nothing like eating a steaming hot bowl of noodle soup and trying real hard not to spill the scalding hot water all over yourself as waves rock the boat!
Pro tip: If you’re late to catch the early boats to the market, you can take a xe om (motorbike taxi) for about USD$1.00, or a taxi for about USD$4.00 to reach the Cai Rang Bridge. At Vo Tanh street, you can rent a small boat for about USD$5.00 to take you to the market.
A private sampan tour
Carry on floating down the river and board a smaller wooden boat, called a sampan. These can easily wiggle their way into smaller canals—the ones you see when you Google the Mekong Delta, with the palm fronds on both sides and the murky brown water. While rowing through these tiny canals, you can stop over at whatever looks interesting—stilt houses, boat houses, farms, orchards, cottage industries, and riverside restaurants. All these will give you a little insight into what it is like living in the Delta.
Learn about cacao farming
Lam The Cuong’s cacao farm is a must on your itinerary. Here you can learn how the fruit from a cacao tree turns into a final product, whether it be body butter, chocolate, or alcohol. The owner will give you a sweet tour that will cost only a little over a dollar and you’ll learn about the process of fermenting, drying and roasting cocoa beans. You’ll even get to try some. The place is also a homestay called Mien Tay Homestay so if you are looking for a place to stay, this should be one of your options. It will only cost you about USD$15.00 a night and this covers pick up, breakfast and dinner as well.
A somber turn
Can Tho Grand prison played a big role during the French and Vietnam War. This is where all the Vietnamese dissenters and revolutionaries were held in cruel conditions, tortured and executed. Eerie mannequins displayed around the premises depict what life was like for them so your imagination does not have to do all the work. There are 21 detention rooms to explore, a kitchen, a church and a pagoda, all within premises. It’ll add a somber note to your otherwise adventurous day when you realize that even in the peaceful countryside of the Mekong, the war took lives.
Sunset, dinner and drinks
Head over to the Ninh Kieu Wharf to catch the sunset over the Hau River. There is a green park to stroll about, an Uncle Ho statue to pay respects to, and a beautiful view to stare in awe at. On the opposite side you will find the Hai Ba Trung street lined with restaurants, bars and hotels. Just tuck yourself into one that suits your mood and enjoy some delicious seafood.
To end your night, head over to Rooftop Bar, where you can enjoy some beer or fancy cocktails while the night lights slowly dim away in the distance. The perfect way to say goodbye to the beautiful city of Can Tho.