Floating Life Along the Mekong

Cai Rang Floating Market - Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Cai Rang Floating Market – Mekong Delta

Like other destinations in Vietnam, Cai Rang dials up the activity, color, and sound a notch to the point of overstimulation. Duelling long-tail boats float by and sell everything from turnips to steaming hot soup. At the Mekong Delta’s bazaar on water, transactions take place at every turn and boats jostle for the next deal. To appreciate the scale at a bird’s eye perspective, we hopped onto the roof of our boat. As with the streets of Vietnam, we had to step back for it to snap into view in some mysterious way, snatching order from the jaws of chaos.

Our Mekong Delta Tour

Long Beans at Floating Market - Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Long Beans – Cai Rang Floating Market, Mekong Delta
  • Boat trip from Saigon to My Tho
  • String of shameless buying opportunities in the form of coconut candy, honey and tropical fruit production outlets on an island near My Tho. This is the epitome of Vietnamese conveyor-belt tourism
  • Short lunch visit on the island of Ben Tre. Terrible, tasteless, overpriced, and totally inauthentic tourist slop not included in the price of the tour. Note to tour operator: this is a disservice to your country, its culture, and the fabulous cuisine your country is capable of serving in its sleep.
  • Overnight in Can Tho. Hot water shut off and all staff mysteriously unavailable to turn it back on.
Boat with Soup - Chau Doc, Vietnam
Breakfast Boat – Chau Doc
  • Cai Rang floating market
  • Cai Rang market on land with a tour of a rice noodle production (one of the other factories was already closed for Tet – darn!)
  • Chau Doc with a visit to near by floating fishing villages
  • Cham village – a minority Muslim ethnic group
  • Boat to the Cambodian border and on to Phnom Penh

Photo Essay: Cai Rang Floating Market


Video: Vietnam’s Mekong Delta Highlights


Arranging a Mekong Delta Tour

We don’t particularly enjoy organized tours, but the Vietnamese make it very difficult to piece together a 2-3 day Mekong Delta trip on your own using public transportation. Organized tours are easily booked at any travel agent in Saigon (Pham Ngu Lao backpacker neighborhood has dozens). Choose whether to return to Saigon or continue on to Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

We booked our tour with Kim Travel, combining two tours in one to give us the maximum amount of time on water. The tour cost $43 per person, including two nights (basic) accommodation and three days of transportation, tours and tour guides (there were times we wished the last two points were not included). It was a commodity tour for that price – not great, not awful and it got us to where we wanted to go.

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  1. says

    we had that same debate, doing it on our own or going with the tour group….we opted for wingin in. we shall let you know how it goes….so far great. Phnom Penh to Chau Doc for $17…then we visited Sam Mountain & temple for sunset today for $3/pp round trip. so we are at $20 so far. tomorrow morning market in Chau doc, then a $4 bus to Cai Rang….

  2. says

    @Mike: Definitely looking forward to hearing how it goes on the Mekong Delta. I’m hoping, for the sake of anyone visiting, that winging it has been facilitated by more water transport options in the delta and much better information about how to get them. I remember Google searching back when we did it and there was little to nothing. Eventually, however, it worked out and was a great trip.

  3. says

    May I ask, why did you wish the guides were not included? I will visit the Mekong Delta in the beginning of September; didn’t find that much information about it either… Hope it works out fine :) Thanks for the article though!

  4. says

    @Stephanie: The reason why we mentioned that at times we wish the guides were not included was that they were always trying to get us to buy things at the places where we stopped. They must have received some sort of commission from the shops. It just got a bit old, that’s all.

    If you have time, try to piece it together independently and stay at various towns along the way. Otherwise, look for a similar tour and just enjoy doing your own thing when the guide wants you to buy some coconut candy :)

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