It is 4.30am, darkness outside, but the entire hostel in Can Tho is on its feet. At 5am each of us leaves for a tour in the best floating market in Vietnam, Cai Rang. Some of us went to sleep late, some of us early and still 5am is not an hour easy to start at, get out of bed and start the day feeling energized. But, there is excitment in the air, we are all pomped and can’t wait to get there, to the must-do experience when you are exploring South of Vietnam and of course i was no different in that from many other travellers.
But, in contrast to other travellers that decided to go with the flow and just arrive to Can Tho, located 3 hours by bus from Ho Chi Minh, and book a tour with the hostel, i booked a private tour.
When i planned my Southeast Asia adventure, Facebook travellers groups were my best friends! Sharing tips and tour guides is very popular in Israel and that is how my magical trip came into being. Sitting for months, every night after 9 hours work day, reading, looking at pics, searching, asking questions and writing in my traveling notebook. Really if you want to have an amazing trip, try to be an active traveller, trust me it won’t take away from your experience and there will always be room for surprises and adventures. But, make sure you get where you want to be and not where the herd goes.
So, i found my amazing tour guide thanks to Facebook. Her name is Ngoc Paul and she was fantastic! I traveled solo and we discussed all the details on FB. She booked me the bus tickets to and from Can Tho, came to pick me up the night before the floating market for a city tour and was very kind and sweet, trying her best to keep me dry during our rainy evening. We finished at the street market, eating a local dish, very similar to pizza.
The next morning she met me outside the hostel at 4.50am on her scooter and we set off for the day. We started at the fish market and if you think 5am is early for you, the fish market will blow your mind. Lively and full of comotion, it seems the fishermen don’t sleep at all. It was the busiest market i have been; various fish everywhere, fresh seafood, basically everything you can find under the sea is available for you. It was a great way to start the day and i couldn’t stop looking around, captivated by all that was going on.
Then we left the market, got on a boat and headed to Cai Rang, the best floating market in Mekong Delta. As the sun was waking up, rising from the river, at least 50 boats were already in the river, the market is fully awake and trading has began.
Looking for a pineapple? Or perhaps some vegtables? Just look up, every boat marks its brand product my hanging it high up on the boat post. All this time my guide was super attentive and tried to give me the best experience ever. While other tourists just sat on the boat and watched quietly, i was up on one of the boats trading pineapples for bettet view of all the boats and a fresh pineapple to start the day with.
All the way she was telling me about the market, lifestyle and culture.
Later we stopped at a rice factory, continued the boat ride to the countryside, where we walked around and i had a chance to see and learn about life on and by the river. The river and nature around it are great sources for everyting you need for everyday life.
During October the tide is high, it is the end of the rainy season and while the river can be a source of life it can also be an obstacle and destructive.
For example, one might find out that even a motor boat can fight forces of nature as this young woman find out..
We didn’t stay tp find out if she managed to cross the plantation to the other side or went back.
The next stop was a cacao farm! Walking through cacao trees, learning about the process lf making chocolate and enjoying a fresh hot cacao was a great treat!
To end our tour Ngoc took me to try a famous local dish. If you haven’t tried Vietnamese food, you simply have to, don’t pass throuh life without trying the Vietnamese cuisine. Adding various leaves to the dish, picking a leaf you love and creating a layered sandwich with pork and sauce is simply divine, all the flavors just expload in your mouth and you jsut love it. It was the best culinary experience!
We finished the tour at noon and a couples of hours later i was on the bus back to Ho Chi Minh.
When going on special tours it is so important to pick a local English speaking guide, don’t be cheap and save on the guide. Save on alcohol, shopping and flights, but not a guide, it can ruin or turn your trip into the best experience. It is also important since they are able to explain and tell you everything about the culture and history of the place.
The floating market was one of the best things i did in Vietnam and it is definitely worth traveling to Ho Chi Minh only for this!