Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta in Vietnam: The Floating Markets of Cai Rang

Aktualisiert am: 12/03/2024

From Saigon we went further south – and had I already liked Ho Chi Minh City – in the Mekong Delta it should be even better. I can only recommend a side trip to the Mekong Delta from Saigon! Here there is colorful life on the floating markets on the Mekong River and the real, original Vietnam. A Mekong Delta boat tour is a unique experience. If you do it right, you can dive deep into the local culture and learn about the lives of the locals. I’ll tell you the best way to do that in this article.

Mekong Delta

Homestays in the Mekong Delta: Off into nature

I often decide spontaneously on the spot where I want to go further and after the busy and sometimes noisy Ho Chi Minh City, a bit of nature seemed like a good change. In the Mekong Delta you can find a lot of homestays. There you stay with locals on their property or in their house, sometimes more, sometimes less easy. By chance I came across a homestay with many small bungalows: Small bamboo huts, overlooking the river, a branch of the Mekong, as there are hundreds of them here. Very simply furnished, without air conditioning and frills, but with real tropical feeling in the middle of the South Vietnamese jungle. Chirping crickets, croaking geckos and frogs, crowing roosters. Real country life, far away from any civilization, at least that’s how it feels. In reality, the nearest major city, Can Tho, is only a few kilometers away – but that just seems unbelievable.

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Hey, I’m Tatiana, a German-Brazilian living in Berlin & the author behind The Happy Jetlagger. I’ve been writing about my travels since 2014. In addition to my job as a flight attendant, this blog is my passion project!

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Mekong Delta

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By boat through the widely branched Mekong Delta

Traveling individually is often exhausting, planning everything, organizing everything – it rarely looks like a vacation. In return, you will be gifted with the most impressive experiences. With a small motorboat made of wood, more nutshell than boat, we sailed at half past five towards the sunrise, in our mini-group, through the branched, narrow side arms of the Mekong. On the right and left, densely overgrown riverbanks full of palm trees and tropical trees. Lucy, our tour guide, courageously cuts down a palm leaf with a huge knife and with admirable dexterity makes rings and small animals out of the leaves to pass the time. But this is not necessary at all, the ride over the almost still sleeping river in the middle of this jungle panorama is already pastime enough.

Mekong Delta

The floating market of Cai Rang: Sunrise on the Mekong River

Just in time for sunrise, the rising sun behind us, we turn into the floating market of Cai Rang, the Cai Rang Floating Market, with our little boat tour. That’s right, a floating market: Like so many markets here in the Mekong Delta, the market of Cai Rang is located in the middle of the river.

Mekong Delta

Traders exchange goods directly from boat to boat, in between old women in their mini-boats, on which they have installed small cookshops and thus supply the workers – and depending on the time of day also the one or other tourist boat. We in our little nutshell were early, before the big tourist rush. To experience the floating market of Cai Rang at sunrise, when the market life is still in full swing, is unique.

Mekong Delta

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Market life on the floating Mekong markets

We hopped from boat to boat, ate breakfast to karaoke music (Vietnamese love karaoke, regardless of their own singing skills, which is both quirky and likeable), shimmied out of our nut shell up steep boat walls to nibble on freshly carved, cardboard-sweet pineapple – and around us, pure market life. Rumbling diesel engines, sacks of vegetables and grain flying around, people hard at work. Somehow surreal that all this takes place on the water – but that’s Vietnam in the Mekong Delta: The Mekong is the lifeline without which nothing would function here.

Mekong Delta

Around the floating market of Cai Rang there are also numerous manufactories. Like this one, for example, which painstakingly makes rice noodles. First, the dough is baked into a flat cake, which is then dried and stacked on bamboo mats and finally put through a noodle press. Everything by hand, without large machines and almost in the open air. Just like the coconut candy you can buy anywhere. They are not for loose fillings or third teeth, but taste very delicious and coconutty!

Boat trip to the Mekong Delta from Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City

From Saigon, there are numerous operators offering day trips into the Mekong Delta to the floating markets. The vendors like to go to the markets of Cai Rang and Cai Be, usually also with a small supporting program. If you have only little time and don’t want to continue your journey from Saigon towards Cambodia or Phu Quoc, but rather towards the north, such a day trip is a good possibility to see at least something of the Mekong Delta.

➜ Book a day tour from Saigon to the floating markets in the Mekong Delta here*

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Mekong Delta

Disadvantage: Most of the way to the market is by bus. The trip takes about 3 hours, so you spend a lot of time getting there and back. While most tours are very inexpensive, most also stop at coffee run type shopping areas. Also, the groups are usually quite large and you arrive at the markets relatively late – by then most of the market hustle and bustle is gone. (I’ve linked you to a slightly more expensive tour above, but the group is smaller and the program sounds nicer. Travel agencies in Saigon often offer tours for a fraction of the price, all the travelers I spoke to were disappointed with these tours without exception)!

Therefore, I would choose a tour of several days to the Mekong Delta, if it should be an organized tour.

Here you can book multi-day tours to the Mekong Delta*

Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta Tour Self Arrange: Accommodation & helpful tips

But you can also organize your Mekong Delta tour by yourself! This is more elaborate, but well worth it! Here are a few tips:

  • By Open Bus from Saigon to Can Tho -> best is to take the orange buses of Futa Travel and from there continue by cab
  • Homestay in Can Tho, in the middle of the jungle Homestay Mekong Can Tho* (from there you can book the sunrise boat trip to the floating market of Cai Rang for 15$, as well as a sunset boat trip for 8$ with a visit to private orchards) Attention: due to the location there are many mosquitoes, it is worth to bring a mosquito repellent with DEET from Saigon beforehand!
    Here you can book your stay at Homestay Mekong Can Tho
  • If you like it more urban: Super nice and comfortable homestay of an Australian-Vietnamese sister couple – I would have liked to stay here longer, they are really very warm and so helpful! An absolute tip from the heart!
    Book your stay at The Mag*

Tip: From Can Tho you can also organize your own boat trips to the floating markets! Just walk along the pier and you will be approached by various ladies within a few minutes. Renting a boat for a Mekong tour is possible all day long, but it is still worth going early in the morning before sunrise to experience the real market life!

Mekong Delta

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