Discover Cai Be float market in one day from Ho Minh Chi City

Discover Cai Be float market in one day from Ho Minh Chi City

Travel and discover a lot of stuff in just a day tour from Ho Minh Chi-city to Cai be floating market. It is situated on the Mekong. Having a fully day tour can give you a great overview of Vietnamese life. On the way to Cai Be, you will see green paddy fields stretching like a patchwork towards the horizons. If you are on a private tour, tour guides will pick you up as early most likely 7 in the morning, Tours will bring you to the overlooking of the rice fields to take pictures and make memories, then next a rowing boat will come to fetch you going to “Cai Be Market” you’re going to immerse yourself into the world of flee market. Addition to the tour you’re going to visit a small family business to see how coconut candy and crispy rice popcorn are made. And you have the chance to visit their local garden and enjoy fresh fruits, honey tea and folk songs. Cai Be is one of the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta. In Ho Chi Minh city can booking a tour to here Mekong Delta tours 1 day.

Buy what you don’t have yet, or what you want, which can be mixed with what you already own. Buy only because something excites you, not just for the simple act of shopping. Shoppers get ready the jump and hop in this new and exciting market in town! Discover “Cai Be Floating Market” from a one day tour from Ho Minh Chi city. Enhance your cultural experience to the next level. This river market is still a popular attraction for tourist. During morning is the best day to shop on this floating market and it is a wholesale item which means cheaper. It’s a market that uses different small boats as their stalls or boutiques. So what to discover in this trip? Discover their culture how to they do the trading in their market. You’ll learn the boats identification of what they are selling by hanging sample products on their long pole which make it easier for the buyer to find a boat that sells what you need. You can buy a lot of vegetables and fresh picked fruits, different delicacies that they offer at a low price. The hustle and bustle atmosphere here is different from urban’s voices of people bargaining mixed rowers’ singing and the sound of paddle boats, which make a living of local people lively. People come here to buy large quantities of goods mostly foodstuffs. Yes, it is a normal market but what’s bring it to the next level is it in the water which makes it more unique and exciting. What else can you do in this market? You can try their lunch on different boats which are a little bit sweet because it’s like having a boat dinner but no in a fancy way. Tour will bring you to you back to Ho Minh Chi city around 4 in the afternoon because market already starts to close that’s why it is much better to go early morning so you can get the fresh fruits, fresh meats and different kinds of foods.

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Meet Vietnamese’s best chefs and gardeners

Meet Vietnamese’s best chefs and gardeners

The 2017 Hanoi Traditional Crafts Festival celebrates local cuisine and the art of bonsai

Like with its food, Hanoi has its own drinking culture. Aristocrats elevated the practice of drinking tea into an art. Purists demanded that the teapot and cups were made of fine porcelain from a first-rate workshop in Jiang Xi, China. Besides tea made with lotus, jasmine, cholorantus and laurel leaves, visitors to Hanoi will find brews steeped with roasted broad beans, roasted rice, vang leaves, vói leaves and many other ingredients.

Hanoi has long been known for its alcohol, since the palace collected the best rice wines from around the country. One type of medicinal rice wine, Minh Mang, was reserved for the emperor. This special wine is said to have helped Emperor Minh Mang to sire 142 children.

For important royal sacrifice ceremonies, the emperor used alcohol prepared from rice harvested from Tịch Điền field, which lies inside the Royal Citadel. The Nguyen lords and emperors were also familiar with Western liquor. Foreign emissaries and businessmen regularly presented wine and brandy to the Nguyen court.


Coffee has a long history in Hanoi too. In fact, Hanoi is probably the first place in Vietnam where coffee became popular. This beverage became part of Hanoi culture and is mentioned in poems and songs and depicted in old paintings.

Whether enjoyed in an upscale restaurant or on a street corner, Hanoi food is sophisticated and attractive. This is because Hanoians view their cuisine as a reflection of their culture. In Hanoi, eating and drinking reveals deep philosophies, such as a belief in Yin and Yang. A meal should balance opposing forces and achieve a balance of food types, tastes and colors. Diners are said to eat not just with their mouths but also with their eyes, noses and hearts. Hanoi’s cooks and chefs are true artists.

From April 30th to May 3rd, 2017, the city of Hanoi is hosting its fourth bi-annual Traditional Crafts Festival. This year’s event will celebrate bonsai plants and cuisine with the theme: ‘Vietnamese Gastronomy in the Tranquility of Hanoi’s Gardens.”

The area around Hanoi is home to many traditional craft villages, some of which date back to the time when the Nguyen Lords chose Phú Xuân as the capital of Đàng Trong (the Southern Territory). At the start of the 19th century the Nguyen Dynasty established their court in Hanoi.

The best artisans from all over the nation settled around Hanoi to supply products to the royal court.

During the course of the city’s history, many local craft villages fell into oblivion. In an attempt to revive some of these ancient trades, the provincial government started hosting Traditional Handicraft Festivals in 2005. The 2005 Hanoi’ Traditional Crafts Festival focused on conical hat making and embroidery. The 2007 event celebrated wood carving, bronze casting and jewelry-making. In 2009, pottery, lacquer and porcelain enamel were showcased.
Food and bonsai plants are integral parts of Hanoi’s identity. For generations, people in Hanoi have paid a great deal of attention to their gardens and their cuisine.

Visitors to the 2011 Hanoi Traditional Crafts Festival can discover Hanoi’s unique cuisine in traditional garden settings. Visitors will be charmed by coconut palms hanging over the river, bamboo footbridges, haystacks, green fields and wooden cottages surrounded by lush gardens.

Hanoi boasts hundreds of sophisticated dishes that were once served at the royal court, as well as vegetarian fare developed in the city’s many pagodas, and medicinal recipes. Eating a simple and healthy vegetarian meal served in a serene garden is a memorable experience, as is attending a banquet similar to those once held in Hanoi’s court.

Even everyday Hanoi food is special. Visitors can enjoy “a party of salt”, in which many types of flavored salt accompany their dinner, including muối sỏ (salted lemongrass); muối cốm (roasted young sticky rice with salt); muối mè (sesame and salt); muối thịt cháy (salted shredded meat); muối tôm chây (salted shredded shrimp); muối tiêu (salt and black pepper); and muối ớt (salt and chili).

Other highlights include a stunning variety of mắm (fermented fish dishes), such as mắm cà (pickled eggplants in soured fish sauce); mắm tôm (shrimp paste); mắm cá cơm (soured anchovies); etc. The variety of cơm (rice) dishes is equally staggering. Visitors should be sure to sample cơm ghẹ (rice with sea crabs); cơm hương sen (lotus rice); and cơm cháy (rice crust).

Also not to be missed are local specialties like bún bò (beef noodle soup), cơm hến (mussel rice), bánh bèo (steamed savoury rice cakes), bánh nậm (rice paste topped with fried shrimp), and bánh lọc (sticky tapioca flour dumplings).
When visitors have had their fill of Hanoi food they can sample some authentic northern Vietnamese food. A “street corner in old Hue-Hue garden city” will be reproduced at the fair.  Here, visitors will find typical northern food and drinks, kids playing traditional games, and performances of traditional folk music like Ca Trù, Chèo and Hát xâm.


Visitors will also have the chance to meet prominent culinary researchers and experts and talented bonsai artists at a seminar entitled: “The Taste of Vietnamese Gastronomy and the Art of Bonsai”. Antique collectors and artists from all over Vietnam will attend the festival and present various activities. Children can join a cooking class, and couples can cook together. Visitors who love Hanoi food so much that they’d like to learn how to make some back home can sign up for cooking lessons. Last but not least, tours to local pagodas, interesting villages and eco-tourism sites are on offer throughout the festival.


Key activities:

  • Opening Ceremony: 8:30 am, the 28th of June, 2017 at Ma May street
  • Principal venues: Sections for cuisine from Hanoi, Vietnam’s North and South and a display of bonsai: inaugurated from 5.00 PM, June 29th 2017 in the front yard of the Imperial City, along Luong Ngoc Quyen Street and Phu Yen Park.
  • Boat dining on the Red river
  • Cooking contests: “Let’s cook together” at 8:30 am, 30th of June 2017; “Happy Meals (Couple cook)” at 8:30am, 1st of July,2017
  • Hanoi Cooking class: From 5th-10th July,2017 takes place in a local house of the lady Ms Phan Hang.
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Hue-Garden city

Hue-Garden city

In Vietnam’s former royal capital, Hue, both Kings and commoners appreciated their gardens. Dr Trinh Ba Hai reports on this city’s love of greenery

The late Vietnamese studies researcher Dr. Tran Quoc Vuong once said: “If Hanoi is an inland urban center and Saigon is a harbor, Hue is a place of gardens and poetry.”

Blessed with nearby mountains, forests, lagoons, beaches and a legendary river, Hue has long been associated with beauty and art. From the time that the Nguyen Lords chose this site as their capital, Hue was a place where people were in tune with nature. From the start of the 19th century until the middle of the 20th century, Hue was the capital of a unified Vietnam, and home to the court of the Nguyen Dynasty. It was during this era that much of Hue’s most impressive architecture was built.


In its royal heyday, Hue was a naturally green city with dozens of royal gardens, hundreds of mansions, garden houses, pagodas and temples, and huge tombs located on the upper stretches of the Hương River (Perfume River). The river is like a blue silk band that connects the court in the east and the tombs in the west. Since Phong Thuy, or geomancy, is very important in Hue, this balance between Ying and Yang is essential.

Royal gardens were built both within and beyond the royal palace. Hue’s garden-lovers appreciated fragrant flowers, strange grasses from all over Vietnam, water features, rock formations, garden houses and gates, and bonsai.
Few people are aware that Hue once had over 30 royal gardens with distinctive styles. In the Imperial City and Forbidden Purple City there were five royal gardens called Thiệu Phương, Ngự Viên, Cơ Hạ, Hậu Hổ and Trường Ninh Residence. Together, these five gardens accounted for a quarter of the palace’s total area, and covered 90,000 square meters.

Beyond the Imperial City but within the Hue Citadel lie many once-famous gardens, including Tịnh Tâm Lake, Thư Quang Garden, Thương Mậu Garden, Khánh Ninh Residence, Bao Đinh Residence, and Thường Thanh Residence. Gardens were also found on an island in the River which, according to ancient principles of geomancy, helped to protect the capital. This island was referred to as a “Right White Tiger”.

Most impressive of all are Hue’s royal tombs, which are decorated with large gardens, pools and lakes. The tombs of Gia Long, Minh Mang, Thieu Tri, and Tu Due cover hundreds of acres. Designed to bring vitality to the monarchs’ afterlife, these magnificent garden tombs allow “a mournful place to smile radiantly’’ and delight visitors.
Traditional garden-style mansions, pagoda gardens, temple gardens and garden-houses for commoners dot the city and its outskirts. Whether big or small, Hue’s gardens are rich in character


For generations, people in Hue have grown flowers and bonsai. The practice of planting trees in pots and shaping them arose in China, where it was known as Penjing, Penzhi or Pencai. The Japanese called this art form Bonsai. In Hue, It is known as Kiểng (a variant of Cảnh)

Hundreds of years ago, Western clergymen and businessmen reported being astonished by the popularity of bonsai in Hue. When Hue became Vietnam’s capital it attracted talented artisans from all over Vietnam, including the best garden-designers and bonsai masters.

Bonsai is judged on three key criteria: age; uniqueness; and elegance. The older a tree, the more precious it is likely to be. Uniqueness relates to the tree’s posture, as creativity is highly valued. A tree must be elegant in appearance and style. The more graceful it is, the more valuable.

Take a visit Cai Rang Floating Market

One other criterion is important: the idea behind the bonsai. A bonsai should have a theme, or a poetic inspiration. This fourth criterion seems to be especially important in Hue, where people are poetic by nature.

For this reason, Hue has become famous for its bonsai, which are very expensive. Hue bonsai artists incorporate the trees’ natural postures into their vision instead of seeking to constrain them. This respect for harmony with nature is probably linked to the strong influence of Bud¬dhism in Hue. The city’s best bonsai trees look old but not depressing, and strange without appearing lonely. They are elegant, aristocratic and poetic.

In terms of geography and climate, Hue is Vietnam’s midpoint. Flora typical to both the North and the South is found around Hue. For this reason, Hue boasts a wide variety of bonsai trees.
The city’s garden architecture, garden designs and bonsai seek to capture the essence of nature and to perfect nature. Gardens are an important element of Hue culture. Part of this city’s unique charm can be attributed to Hue people’s appreciation for flora and landscaping.

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Travelling to Tam Dao for backpackers

Travelling to Tam Dao for backpackers

How to travel to Tam Dao?

Tam Dao is far from Hanoi about 85km (2-hour drive), so it is very convenient to travel to tam Dao. You can go by car, bus or motorbike, taxi.


The most beautiful tourist places around Hanoi

The majority of young people are interested in backpacking to Tam Dao because of short distance and very convenient transportation. From Hanoi, you can get a motorbike at James Hanoi Motorbikes company specializing in motorbike rental Hanoi with a wide range of motorbikes such as manual or semi-automatic motorbikes, you can get one manual motorbike that is very suitable for the road leading Tam Dao, you just follow Pham Hung Street and then, go straight to Vinh Yen City, Vinh Phuc Province, turn to Road 28 to continue about 25km to Tam Dao.

For those who prefer going by bus to save money (mostly students), you take bus 58 (route: Long Bien – Me Linh). From Me Linh Plaza, you will take bus 01 to Vinh Phuc Commune, then take bus 07 to Vinh Yen – Tam Dao.
Also, you can take a passenger car from Hanoi to Vinh Yen at My Dinh station. Then, you will take a taxi or motorbike taxi to Tam Dao.

In addition, you might take the train from Hanoi – Lao Cai, get off at Vinh Yen train station. After that, you will take the bus 07 to Tam Dao – Tay Thien, or catch a taxi/ motorcycle taxi to Tam Dao.

Experience for renting the hotel room in Tam Dao

Hotels and motels in Tam Dao are quite plentiful so the prices are suitable for tourists. As experience, the average room rate in Tam Dao is about 300.000/ room/ day and, from 500,000 to 3.000.000 VND/ room/ day for star-class luxury hotel.
The main means of transport in Tam Dao is the taxi, motorbike taxi, rental car or on foot. Before going to any places, you should make a deal on price with driver.

You can find out about another backpacking trip to Ninh Binh from Hanoi

These attractions in Tam Dao

We call the place Tam Dao because it is formed from three high mountains, including Thien Thi, Thach Ban and Phu Nghia. Tam Dao is famous for scenic spots such as Thac Bac, Xa Huong Lake, Dai Tuyet Bridge, Thang May, Rung Rinh Mountain and so on.

Ba Chua Thuong Ngan Temple is located at the foot of Thien Thi Mountain. You have to climb 200 stone steps to go to the temple. In this place, you can admire the famous Golden temple of Vietnam.
Thac Bac is a small stream with about 50 meters in length rushing along with the sound of the forest and echoing leaves.

Rung Rinh Peak owns a lot of picturesque trees and hills. You can not only admire a lot of orchids but also hear chirping birdsong and flying butterflies.

A place you cannot miss when traveling to Tam Dao is Heaven Gate. From the hill, you will go straight to the French church and turn left to Heaven Gate. Standing on the Heaven Gate, you can see the whole town fanciful in smog and feel the peaceful atmosphere here.

Tam Dao ancient church built by French architecture, becomes an attractive tourist destination. Standing on the church, you can see the whole natural scenery of Tam Dao.

In addition to the places you can do with your groups, you can go camping in the wide and very clean lawn area in Tam Dao. Especially, Tam Dao has tennis court, football ground and swimming pool.

What to eat in Tam Dao/ Specialties in Tam Dao

In the top of the specialty list in Tam Dao is chayote, a simple but typical dish. Stir fried chayote famous and tasty dish. Moreover, boiled chayote served with sesame salt is familiar in many big and small parties.

Naturally raised chicken is the second famous dish in Tam Dao. It is cooked into many different dishes like stir fried chicken with salt, stewed chicken, stir fried chicken with onion, especially delicious and greasy grilled chicken covered with mud.

You can also enjoy the wild boar cooked into dishes such as baked, steamed, etc. If you go with your group, you can buy a whole pig to cook and enjoy it with your friends. Such an interesting experience!


This is a kind of Tam Dao’s specialty

However, the eating service in Tam Dao is quite expensive so you should bring some kinds of ready-made foods and drinks if you do not want to spend too much money.

Hopefully, with the useful information, you will get some ideas on how to travel to Tam Dao, what to do and what to eat in Tam Dao to save time and money.

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4 must-do things when traveling to South Africa

4 must-do things when traveling to South Africa

In spring from September to November, the scenes of the South Africa will become brighter and vibrant thanks to the colorfully blooming of nearly 4.000 kinds of flowers in the warm weather of 17 – 27oC, attracting millions of tourists to travel to this country for their holidays. Let’s discover what makes the “country of rainbow” so gorgeous and charming.

If visitors take the tour from Johanesburg – Pretoria – Sun City – Cape Town, they can have great trip to experience 4 most attractive things in the “country of rainbow” when sightseeing the wonder Table Mountain, explore Cape of Good Hope, touch South African diamond, feel the purple shade of Jacaranda flowers and behold the “big five” of the wild nature.

Sightsee the wonder Table Mountain and explore Cape of Good Hope

It is commonly believed that if traveling to the South Africa without visiting Table Mountain means that you never arrive in this country. Simply, if Mount Phou Si is the symbol of Japan, the symbol of South Africa is Table Mountain.


The mountain located in Cape Town which is “the world’s most beautiful port”. It is one of world’s 7 new wonders. Through 6 million years, the mountain has had the height of 1.086 above the sea level and width of 3km. It is unique with the flat mountain top as its name. Previously, to reach the top of Table Mountain, it took tourists 4 hours to climb but the time is now saved much thanks to the 360o rotating suspension cable system enabling you to see the whole of the most attractive city around the world. If you like, you can walk to the mountain top for sightseeing the landscape. Moreover, tourists are allured by not only the unique beauty but also the biodiversity system with the arrays of primitive plants living in the ravines and over found 2.200 plant bushes and wild animals such as porcupines, civets, snakes, turtles, deer, etc.


One more thing you cannot forget to Cape Town is Cape of Good Hope where two famous restaurants Batorluomei Bird Diast and Da Gama greatly discovered the road to Asian Ocean though Cape of Good Hope in 15th century. Conquering the end point of the Africa for the interference of 2 great oceans in the world may be an unforgettable experience to anyone in life.

Touch the diamond in the South Africa


South Africa is known as the kingdom of diamonds because it is one of the countries treasuring a number of diamond mines with special quality in the world. In particular, the world’s largest diamond Cullian weighing 3,106 carats was extracted into nine pieces. In which, many mounted on the crown the Queen of England were also found in the diamond mine in the northwestern South Africa in 1905. Taking the tour to the South Africa, visitors will have the opportunity to touch and feel overwhelmed by the richness and splendor of the most valuable gemstones on the planet, in Johannesburg-based De Beers – the world’s biggest diamond manufacturer.

Feel the purple shade of Jacaranda flower


It is estimated there are about 70,000 Jacaranda trees planted throughout the parks, streets and gardens in Pretoria, the administrative capital of South Africa. In the spring, around 9th to 11st of May every year, the city with the European architecture style will coat the romantic purple of Jacaranda flowers pervading the perfume into the air. This is a wonderful opportunity for tourists all over the world to sightsee and admire. The streets where the flowers bloom purple all over become an ideal place for couples.

Of equal attractiveness are the ancient architecture works and the national cultural heritage in Pretoria such as the former city council, town hall, Church Square central square, etc…

Let’s discover 7 impressive construction works of the world recognized world heritages by UNESCO

Behold “big five” of the wild world

Coming to South Africa, you will notice the “big five” of the world of wild animals including leopard, lion, elephant, rhino and Cape buffalo, but before the tour, we still see on TV or countless photographs and online videos. The interesting place to experience this is probably not anywhere else but Pilanesberg National Park, which is the fourth largest of South Africa and also attracts the biggest number of tourists because it is only about 1.5 hour drive from Johannesburg. Apart from the big 5, you can see more than 7,000 species of mammals, 300 species of birds in the Pilanesberg Park by your eyes.

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2-day backpacking from Hanoi to Ninh Binh – Ha Long

2-day backpacking from Hanoi to Ninh Binh – Ha Long

Only trip for 2 days 1 night, you can discover two tourist sites in the north of Vietnam, which are Ninh Binh and Ha Long Bay. We are an experienced travel consultant will help you schedule departing from Hanoi, here you get to receive detailed explanations and informative advice at our office located in the Old Quarter and on behalf of Hanoi local tour operator, we will be your reliable companion, just follow this itinerary below:

Day 1: Hanoi – Ninh Binh

7am: Departure from the Southern Station in Hanoi (Giap Bat station) on the road to Ninh Binh. Every 30 minutes, there will be a passenger car to Ninh Binh, from 6am to 6pm every day. The current price is about 60,000 – VND100,000/ ticket. Currently, because Cau Gie highway was put into the operation, the time from Hanoi to Ninh Binh is only about 50-60 minutes.


Harvest season Ninh Binh

8am: you are present in Ninh Binh District and have breakfast with specialty which is the eel vermicelli soup on Tran Hung Dao, or at 86 Vo Thi Sau Street, opposite the youth park. After breakfast, you will catch a car to Bai Dinh Pagoda, which is far from the district about 15 km. If you go with your group, you can take a taxi. Otherwise, you can go there by bus or taxi.

9am: You arrive in Bai Dinh Pagoda and enjoy the breathtaking scenery

12pm: You will have lunch at many restaurants nearby to enjoy the plenty of specialties such as mountain goats in Ninh Binh, wild chicken, “cơm cháy” (literally “scorched rice”) and Vietnamese traditional foods with affordable price.


Bai Dinh pagoda

2:30pm: You will be at Trang An tourist site, which is in the opposite direction with your departing point in Ninh Binh with the distance of about 5km. Then, you will buy entrance and ferry tickets: VND100.000/ person. You should avoid going to Trang An in the peak season so not to suffer from the crowds, queues and chaotic.

5.30pm: You will finish the visit and catch the car from the Bai Dinh to Ninh Binh town. There are two choices: You will either have dinner and stay overnight in Ninh Binh hotel and the next day, you can take one day trip from Hanoi to Hoa Lu Tam Coc by organized tour or have dinner and then go back to Hanoi to stay at the hotel. It is up to you as your preference.

Day 2: Hanoi – Ha Long

6am: You will depart to Ha Long – World Natural Heritage, 170 km from Hanoi, with 3 to 4 hours by car. If you are backpacker, you can catch a bus, at Kim Ma station on Nguyen Thai Hoc in Hanoi. Regularly every 15 minutes, there will be one flight. You can also depart from Luong Yen station or Gia Lam station and stop at Bai Chay. To save time, you have breakfast before departure or while moving on the road. Ticket price ranges from 90,000 to 120,000 VND
(For those who stay in Ninh Binh, you can catch the passenger car to Giap Bat station and then the car to Quang Ninh. You should remember to get off at the Bai Chay).


Ha Long Bay – natural wonder of the world

10pm: You will be at Bai Chay station. From the station to the Bai Chay tourist cruise port, you can take the taxi motorbike about 30.000/ person, bus of approximately 5.000 – 10.000 VND/ person. You should take a taxi if the group is more than 3 people.

Every day, Bai Chay tourist cruise port organizes the visit to Thien Cung Cave – Dau Go through Cho Da Islet, Dinh Huong and Trong Mai (Kissing Rocks Islet) with 04 hour journey and the fare of 100.000/ passenger; at fixed time: 8am and 12.30pm. (As a rule, in addition to the train ticket, you have to buy visit tickets as a form of contribution of tourists to Ha Long Bay conservation). You should go directly to the official ticket office of the tourist site, not the purchase of the ticket brokers.

Click here to check another fantastic islands out in southern Vietnam


Sung Sot Cave, Ha Long Bay

Note: You can change the journey into Hanoi – Ha Long – Hanoi – Ninh Binh. Thus you can experience through one of the preferred choices of tourists, which is staying overnight on the cruise available at Ha Long Bay to enjoy the fresh air and the freshness of the sea. The lowest price is from 2.028.000VND / night. However, the service price is quite expensive and often applied for 2 days 1 night, with lots of recreational activities such as squid fishing, kayaking, hiking, visiting caves, etc. So if you have time and money, you should choose overnight on cruise.

Some overnight cruises on Ha Long Bay are:
– Syrena Cruise
– Emeraude Classic Cruises

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A visit to Cai Rang Floating Market

A visit to Cai Rang Floating Market

Cai Rang Floating Market in Can Tho is a colorful early-morning bazaar full of memorable sights, sounds and tastes.


Sampan boats typical of Southwestern floating markets, equipped with both oars and engine

As a student of mine advised me, no visit to the Mekong Delta is complete without stopping by a floating market. The student, Pham Viet Ngoan, is from Can Tho, and his hometown boasts Vietnam’s most famous floating market, Cai Rang. We made plans for an outing, and at dawn of the next day, a group of five students and I arrived at Ninh Kieu Harbor to set out for Cai Rang Floating Market by small boat.

The river was sprinkled with floating patches of algae and a buzzing boat traffic passed in both directions. After 30 minutes on the lively river, our boat reached the floating market, set on a river bend that was around 300 meters wide and one kilometer long and full of boats and canoes of all sizes, colors, shapes and styles, carrying both market-goers and vendors.

Trung Dong, another student, explained the market’s name to me: local legend has it that in ancient times a giant crocodile crawled out and sank its teeth into the riverbank, thus the name “Cai Rang” (which means “the teeth” in Vietnamese). However, according to scholar Vuong Hong Sen in his Analyses of Southern Dialects, Cai Rang was actually derived from the Khmer word karan, the traditional kitchen god. Khmer natives in Tri Ton (An Giang) specialized in terracotta pots and karan statues and loaded them on boats to sell along this river bend. Gradually, the word “karan” became commonplace for the vibrant trading boats seen everyday, and the Vietnamese in the Southwest modified the name to Cai Rang.

Whatever the origin of its name, Cai Rang Floating Market today is a wholesale market specializing in fruits and vegetables, local staple commodities, merchandise and delicacies that characterize the region’s cultural identity and enhance the market’s distinct charm. The captain skillfully maneuvered the boat to carry us around the hundreds of other boats, ferries, coracles and vessels that filled the market. None of us could count how many boats were gathered that day; however, the driver said that there were 400 to 500 boats on ordinary days and up to 700 trading boats during the run-up to Tet holidays, when a colorful variety of flowers are on offer.

Pointing out bamboo poles planted on prows on which fruits, tubers and other little items were hung, my student Dong Yen explained that these are called beo poles, and are used to promote goods for sale. The students further explained that the poles were also used by locals to hang out their clothes to dry, while a coconut leaf hung on the beo pole advertises that the entire boat is for sale.


Transport fruit for sale

Our boat continued deeper into the market to explore further delights: merchants tossing watermelons from big ferries to smaller boats; women piloting oars with their feet to transport fruits for sale; coffee vendors who steamed coffee in Chinese medicinal kettles on glowing braziers. Piercing cries advertising goods, murmured words of bargaining and exclamations of joy over delicious foods mingled with noise of boat engines to result in the daily concerto of sounds of the floating life on the Mekong.

Last year, I also had a visit to another province in southern Vietnam, Kien Giang and got to the island Nam Du, and this floating market reminds me of the fishing village.

Minh Thu, the youngest one in our team, stood at the prow and waved her hand. A boat selling kuy teav, vermicelli with grilled pork and soup rice cakes, promptly approached our port side. Immediately another boat selling drinks reached our starboard side. We chose our favorite foods and coffees to enjoy a floating breakfast together.

No sooner had the food boats left than fruit and souvenir ones arrived. Reasonably priced tropical fruits that had been collected last night (to retain their colors, fragrances and tastes) enticed many of us. Souvenirs included coconut-based products, local striped scarves and Southwestern confections and specialties.

At 9am, boats started to spread apart, as the Cai Rang Market grew quieter and dissolved. Our boat headed back to Can Tho. Departing from this unique and fascinating market, I was reminded of some verses by Huynh Kim about Cai Rang that I had once read somewhere:

The market has floated since midnight
And I sink into endless dusk
… Urban girls and guys from afar
Wander aimlessly throughout the floating market
Reaching the merchant boat they just squirm
A durian deepens their sorrow.

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