The floating markets are a very lively scenery, accommodating much of the goods exchange on the area, and can be quite freely visited on board smaller boats, for about US$3/hour per small boat. You may take a tour from the Ninh Kiều pier, in front of the Nam Bộ restaurant, where the “boat ladies” are always eager to charm you into taking theirs.
Cai Rang (Vietnamese: Cái Răng)
Everyday traders gather here from 6-8 am to sell all kinds of agricultural products including coconuts, watermelons, grapefruit and dragon fruit from their boats decked out with things on a small wooden post so that buyers can easily find what they are looking for.
From Cai Rang Bridge, the market stretches half a kilometre downstream the Can Tho River. In some places, boats look like huge trays of fruit shimmering in the bright sunlight.
It’s very exciting to see sellers throwing some samples of their products to buyers on other boats who never miss the chance to catch them in their hands.
Phong Dien (Phong Điền)
It is on the Can Tho River in Chau Thanh district, 17 km from the city, and its stalls are boats rowing back and forth selling mostly food like duck eggs, vermicelli soup, vermicelli with roast meat, porridge, and coffee. The market is open daily from 4-5am to 7-8pm. The biggest challenge at this romantic market is for customers to locate a product quickly since the “shops” keep moving back and forth and are not grouped together. To locate a shop, one has to look up at the long pole on each boat on which sample products are displayed.The traders gather on the river bank after a hard day’s work to drink tea or wine while singing and playing traditional songs. Simple, rustic, and charming.
Phung Hiep (Phụng Hiệp)
he market meets all day long, but most noisy and busy in the morning. The precious evening, from far-and-wide, boats full of seasonal vegetables and fruits: mangoes, durians, bananas, oranges, coconuts… left their villages to head for the sun-rise market. Every boat is full of fruits. Some boats are covered with roofs, some are not. On boats without roofs, the sellers have to hold high a stick hanging with fruits as signals. Market-goers do not bargain, just a few words exchange, they sell and get paid. Normally, fruits are sold and brought to big boats. Then they will be transported to fruit-processing factories or to Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau, even to Hanoi and Northern provinces.
It’s a floating market’ but services are available, foods and drinks on small boats twist and turn to serve hungry sellers and buyers. Signal to buy is only a whistling or waving band. Apart from fruits, local products: snakes, birds, turtles… are easy to find near Phung Hiep bridge. These specialties are almost bought and brought to restaurants in Can Tho or Ho Chi Minh City.
Tra On (Trà Ôn)
Located at the intersection of the Hau and Mang Thit rivers and next to Tra On Town in Tra On District in Vinh Long Province, Tra On is the last floating market on the Hau River. Goods are wholesaled in groups and delivered to boats so the ambience of the market is less bustling than other local floating markets. There is not much laughter.
Early mornings, when the sun is still sleeping and the moon is blurring, sellers gather on their boats and offload their agricultural goods onto other boats that carry it all to Can Tho City or HCMC. The goods that move the most are fruits including coconut, banana, guava, pineapple, orange, jackfruit and pomelo.