Can Tho city is considered the capital of the Mekong Delta. It is one of the more attractive and easily travelled Delta towns, with its main draw being the Cai Rang floating market. But there are other things to do while in town and here are our favourites.
Ninh Kieu Wharf
Ninh Kieu Wharf is a popular tourist stop in Can Tho city, just a few minutes off the centre. You will find a green park running parallel to Hai Ba Trung street, a night market, plenty of restaurants and bars, hotels, a statue of Uncle Ho and a gorgeous view. It is located on the bank of the Hau River, which is a tributary of the Mekong River, and makes for a popular spot to watch the sunset. The view over the river with colourful fishing and trading boats moored at all angles on the shimmering golden water at sunset is extremely photogenic. You can stroll around the park for a bit, snap a few photos, head off to eat and have a drink at a pub, and then check the night market out.
Cai Rang Floating Market
If you board a boat in the wee hours of the morning at Ninh Kieu Wharf, you can head off to the most popular tourist attraction of the city — the Cai Rang floating market. The market is about 30 minutes away by boat and best around sunrise hours. Packed into a section of the Hau river, you will see small and large vessels selling all sorts of fruits, vegetables and cooked food. All you have to do is lean over your boat and ask for what you want. If you want to know what each boat is selling, just look to the giant bamboo pole erected at the front that displays samples of everything sold on the boat.
Private Sampan Tour
The floating market is the primary attraction of the city but after the market, you can opt to continue your journey on the water. Exit the large river and head towards the tiny canals that make up the maze that is the Delta. Take a wooden row boat, also called a sampan in local lingo, and stop over at anything you see interesting — stilt houses, boat houses, orchards, farms, cottage industries, riverside restaurants, etc.
The Mekong Delta is famous for its agriculture. Head over to Mien Tay Homestay, which is not just a homestay but also a modest cacao farm run by Lam The Cuong and his family. Over here you can do a small tour of the farm for just over a dollar and learn how fruit from a cacao tree becomes familiar cacao products you can buy at the supermarket, such as body butter, liquor and of course, chocolate. If you wish to stay over at the homestay, it is only about USD$15.00 (VND$300,000) a night, and this includes two meals and a pick-up.
Can Tho Grand Prison
Can Tho Grand prison is an important historical site to visit in the city. Vietnamese dissenters and revolutionaries were held in cruel conditions, tortured and executed within the walls. It was initially built by the French during the colonial era, but then was used by the South Vietnamese and Americans during the Vietnam War. The prison has 21 detention rooms, a church, pagoda, a house for the supervisor, and a kitchen. The mannequins depict certain scenes of what it was like in the prison when it was used, and they are quite eerie.
Stay at a homestay
Hotels are lovely, you can get spoiled, sleep comfortably, and everything is convenient. But when you are in a place like the Mekong Delta, you need to forgo all the luxury and book your accommodation at a local homestay. The experience is extremely intimate — your host will take care of you like you are part of the family, let you cook with them and enjoy family meals, take you on tours around the city, let you participate in their farming activities, and also to take care of their home with them. You will get to learn their stories, lifestyles, customs and habits. You will make unforgettable memories and possibly even a lifelong friend.
Eat Mekong Delta specialties
There are many dishes you need to try while in Can Tho. The Cai Rang grilled rolls are absolutely delicious. They are made from fresh pork, and served with pineapple, cucumber, bitter banana, star fruit, and thin rice paper. It is a very interactive meal as you place the meat and herbs on rice paper, roll it up and dip it in sauce before you eat. Other dishes you should try are bun ca (fish noodles), hu tieu Sa Dec (dry noodles), bun rieu (crab noodles) and lau mam (fish hot pot).
Try rat meat
Yes, you read that right. Mekong farmers have long since dealt with pesky rats on their rice fields and a solution has been to cook or grill them and eat them. Simple. Rat meat is quite normal in Vietnam, but in Mekong you will find the healthiest kind because all they do is feed on the fields, unlike city rats that eat garbage. You can find all kinds of meals made — rat sour soup, fried rat, curry rat, grilled rat, etc. The meat is dense, moist and rich, almost sweet. The char-grilled tail is quite a delicious beer snack to chew on. Not that we’ve tried, oh no no no..