If you once have had a chance to travel around the fruits orchards, giant paddy fields and swamplands of the Mekong Delta, surely you could feel like you misstepped into the vivid pictures in a geography book. Known as one of two biggest ‘rice bowl’ of Vietnam providing the majority of the country’s annual food crop, this flat land covers a large area from Ho Chi Minh city limits southwest to the Gulf of Thailand.
The delta is carpeted in a dizzying variety of greens and full of “water” with a dense system of rivers, canals, and streams. That geographical feature has affected strongly on the rhythms of local life in the mighty Mekong, where almost boats, houses as well as markets float upon the water surface. If you haven’t witnessed such hectic and vibrant floating markets, you have missed out one of the most colorful cultural experience. That’s why there are a lot of tours to Indochina with floating markets in Vietnam included in their itineraries.
These markets are gathering places where the local people exchange various commodities such as fruits, vegetables while tourists can spread their eyes over the lively panorama around. In the picture, you can not only find goods selling boats, but also floating restaurants, floating stations, and other floating stores as any other continental markets.
Cai Rang Floating Market
The largest floating market in the Mekong Delta is Cai Rang floating market located on a branch of the Mekong called Hau River. It often opens from 5 a.m to midday but, it is better to come here before 9 a.m. The boats are pretty big, and most of the merchants placed on a long upright pole. Each of them had fruit or vegetable on top of this pole so that the sellers don’t need to cry out for sale. The main goods here are wholesale fruits, agricultural products.
Right from early morning, the waterway does become an army of many different boats packed with colorful fruits such as papayas, mangos, bananas, pineapple. Every day, there are hundreds of tours coming there so to meet the demands of visitors, numerous kinds of services are available on the floating boats. Besides fresh fruits, they are also able to enjoy Vietnamese traditional breakfast dishes, like Pho or Hu Tieu. Imagine that you are tasting a bowl of Pho while paddling along the river. How unforgettable it would be!
Cai Be Floating Market
Another prominent floating market in Mekong Delta is Cai Be Floating Market, which was formed in the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. Located at Tien River in the intersection of Vinh Long, Tien Giang, and Ben Tre Provinces, it is always busy and holds all typical features of the locals’ live in the western region. Roughly 400 to 500 rafts and boats gather at this market, anchored along the 2 sides of the river for kilometers from the early morning (3 a.m) which are all full of fruits, vegetables, seafood, animals, coconut soap, candy, and other products. The merchandise sold in each boat is also hung on a pole to attract visitors like in Cai Rang Floating Market.
Because this area is covered with water so boats and sampans become the main mean of transportation. They operate like taxis in the mainland, which is very convenient and easy for tourists to travel around the region. Along with these distinctive characteristics, Cai Be Floating Market also leads tourists from admiration to another admiration with the magnetic sights along the river banks, such as lines of coconut trees and stilt houses. With these breathtaking scenery, enthusiastic locals, and hustling daily life, your journey to Mekong Delta would be one of your most memorable period of time that you could ease your mind from all everyday troubles!
Nga Bay Floating Market
Nga Bay, also called Phung Hiep Floating Market, is known as the remarkable market in the Mekong Delta. The market would make you overwhelmed with its greenness and rural characteristics. When arriving in there, besides inspirational colors of fruits, vegetables, seafood, poultry products, handicraft goods, domestic utensils, aquatic products of the waterway region as well as the distinguishing cuisine of the South, you are also amazed by many boxes keeping snakes, birds, tortoises, and iguanas.
These floating markets open very soon in the morning, often at 4 a.m. Thus, to feel the beauty of the floating markets comprehensively, you should wake up early and take one of the first boats to go there. Or if you do a one-day excursion, the travel guide would prepare all for you. Carry your backpack up and explore by yourselves!
Tra On Floating Market
In Vinh Long, there is a relaxed, small floating market with the name Tra On Floating Market. Located outside the idyllic town at the mouth of a channel, Tra On will surely give you a feeling for the rhythm of how the daily life there is. Being 250m from Tra On rivulet, Tra On Floating Market is located downstream on the Hau River of over 300m long. A new day in the market starts in the very early morning, about 2 AM to 3 AM. However, you can arrive in it around 5 AM to 6 AM as this is the busiest moment. At that time, you can see various boats full of products gathering here.
Tra On floating market plays a role as a wholesale market with the main goods are fruits and seasonal agricultural products. Your eyes and tastes will be feasted with a wide range of mangoes, longan, rambutan, etc. Besides, there are also many other agricultural products, like gourds, potatoes, okra, cabbage, radishes, melon, etc. The whole scene is more lively and interesting with small boats served like coffee shops and food stores. The laugh of locals and the sound of engines do create an unforgettable remix.
Nga Nam Floating Market
Located in Soc Trang Province, what makes Nga Nam floating market stand out from others in the region is that it lies on the convergent point of 5 rivers flowing into 5 directions: My Long (Hau Giang), Vinh Quoi (Soc Trang), Phung Hiep (Hau Giang), Phuoc Long (Bac Lieu) and Phu Loc (Soc Trang). It is well-known for its hustle and bustle atmosphere that no other floating market in Vietnam can compare to.
Visiting Nga Nam floating market, you can enjoy endless stretches of boats displaying their wide range of goods, with dangling cabbage, potato, tomato, and garlic. Being the central market in Mekong Delta, this markets provides most of the goods and specialties from signature types of rice and tropical fruits to countless types of seafood. It helps to display the pure range of resource diversity the Mekong Delta has to offer. Definitely, you cannot resist temptation when approached by some southern merchants, offering their delightful fish noodle, rice soup or coffee.
The best time to set food on Nga Nam floating market is at dawn as the sun rises and the locals are ready for trading. Mingle with the resident’s lives by chatting with them and sample cuisines of the region on the boat.