Guide to Cai Rang & Phong Dien Floating Markets
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Guide to Cai Rang & Phong Dien Floating Markets

In this article, you can find out insight details about floating markets: How to get, when to go, what to see & eat at the Cai Rang & Phong Dien floating markets in Can Tho. To get the spirit of Can Tho, floating market is a must-see because it shows you what river culture is, how local people can adapt to the geography and how they can maintain this kind of very traditional market until now. It is a process. It is not random.

By Thomas Vietnam at vemekong.com | Updated: Oct 05, 2020 | Can Tho Travel Guide

Enjoy Can Tho sunrise on the way to floating market

Why Floating Market Occurs?

There were no cars, trucks some decades ago, so waterways were the main transfer in southern Vietnam. Because Can Tho is the biggest city there, Cai Rang and Phong Dien floating markets are well known besides many beautiful tropical orchards and traditional villages. Although modern life is invading, the floating market still is the soul of the city with “country side environment”.

Can Tho sampan tour

When to Go?

Cai Rang floating market.

The largest floating marketing in Can Tho, and one of the most popular in the world, the Cai Rang floating market is an exciting, colorful hub of many wholesalers. It is crowded and noisy (with many tourist boats), but still fascinating. The market, about 6 km (3,7 miles) or 30 minutes by boat from Ninh Kieu Wharf, starts trading at around 4 am, in the dark, and is usually finished by 10 am. It really is worth making a super early start to watch dawn break over the market from 5am to 6am.

Cai Rang floating market view from drone

It is a market for agricultural goods, especially fruits. There are a hundred and one kinds of tropical fruit such as mangoes, mangosteens, rambutans, dragon fruits, longans and the like. You will still somehow find strangely comfortable moments while immersing in the rustic lifestyle of the Vietnamese and breathing in the cool breeze of the great river. A drink seller will also approach you via boat. You can enjoy a fresh coconut, Vietnamese coffee and even try local bun rieu – noodle soup…from the floating boats. A bridge nearby offers great views, but nothing compares to exploring the market by boat. However, only Cai Rang floating market is not enough to know well about the floating culture of locals.

Super chill local life and its PR
Phong Dien floating market.

About 20 km (12,4 miles) or two hours by boat from Ninh Kieu Wharf, Phong Dien retail floating market is one of the most lively and colorful markets and, as an added bonus, less popular with tourists who usually visit the Cai Rang floating market that’s closer to Can Tho.

Must see Phong Dien floating market at dawn

This market is an unskippable destination for those who want to find out highlights of Can Tho, it is best viewed well before 8 am – preferably before dawn. There are just about 20 small nice sampans (traditional farmer’s boat used to use in small villages and small canals) boats every day. Phong Dien market possesses an endearing simplicity because it is known for the sale and exchange of local goods with the native only! There are not many local merchants coming to the floating market in rainy or low-tide days.

Drone at Phong Dien floating market

How to Get to Floating Markets?

From Ho Chi Minh City.

Go by yourselves: it is the best way to manage time, save money and challenge yourself. Take a sleeping Futa bus (110,000 VND per person) to go to Can Tho (about 5 hours one way – 3,5 hours on the bus, and the waiting time for departure, reststop, pick up, drop off…). When you arrive at the Can Tho bus station, it is about 15 minutes or 6 km to reach to Ninh Kieu Wharf by taxi (a taxi costs around 80,000 VND. Mai Linh taxi (+842923656565). Khanh Cuong taxi (+842923868686) if you have time! You can wait and then take the free Futa transfer service to Ninh Kieu Wharf and let’s tour! Rent a sampan by yourself (about 250.000vnd [~11$] for 2 or 3 people) or rent a boat (about 660.000vnd [~30$] for 7 people) with roof and life jackets, no tour guide. Other way is to book a package Can Tho Tour From Ho Chi Minh 1 Day (HCM-Can Tho-HCM), pick-up at 04:00 AM at your hotel from Ho Chi Minh city center; 119$ per person).

Can Tho house on stilts
From Can Tho city.

We personally think you will take the Futa bus to Can Tho, then stay overnight at Best Extended Stay Can Tho Hotels, the next early morning tour will be super & wonderful to enjoy the breathtaking views of markets (from 5 am to 9 am because you can observe the daily overcrowded lifestyle of the locals at that time) because you can start the floating market tours with many departures at 4:30 AM, 5:00 AM, 6:00 AM, 7:00 AM from Can Tho city center.

Local river life at the FM

How to Find Your Tour Styles?

How to grab worthy unique tours which make you do not get upset, confusing, wasting travel days to Can Tho and fix your budget as well? We share you 3 common options. The first option is a strong budget. You just need to walk to the Ninh Kieu Wharf  and some freelance locals will catch & show you their boats and the price with a typical non-guided tour, still fun and a bit challenge, make sure you got the life jackets and remember to pay the one you deal with, plenty tourists pay around. The second option is much nicer. As you know, most of Can Tho hotels offer basic package tours with guide and pick-up, drop off from hotel. The price is fair and fixed.

Can Tho small canals after Phong Dien floating market

The last option is the TripAdvisor’s Recommended tours from the newest reviews for sure, as we know, Can Tho River Tour Co.,LTD is a top-notch number one with 99% of excellent of 900 reviews. A well-regarded travel and tour company, set up by a group of passionate Can Tho locals. The company offers more than 16 unique daily tours in and around Can Tho as well as private transfer to surroundings areas and Ho Chi Minh City. Custom tours are also available, by boat, sampan, bike, scooters, van, car. WhatsApp/Hotline/Viber/Wechat +84908169205; canthorivertour.com (have live-chat-box on website).

Can Tho local life

What to Eat Like Local?

Have breakfast in the floating market with rice noodles soup, pho or rice (about 20.000vnd – 50.000vnd [~1$-2,5$] per one). Enjoy Vietnamese coffee or coconut juice (about 10.000vnd – 25.000vnd [0,5$-1,10$]).

Can Tho floating market just before New Year

What to See Like Local?

Both Cai Rang and Phong Dien floating markets are on Can Tho river, so we call the way to visit them is Can Tho River Tour. It is a special tour which flows on a part of Mekong river. Moreover, there are many amazing things in these markets that make you surprise such as what is the function of the bamboo stick in every boat, why boats have eyes and how local people live in a boat whole day.

Hopefully, the above tips will help you to come up with a great plan for your adventure in Can Tho City. Have a safe trip!

“Sleep less, travel more, respect more” – Thomas Vietnam and Thank you!!


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