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.

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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.

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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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Beautiful Bagan-Myanmar in my heart

Beautiful Bagan-Myanmar in my heart

Some 3000 temples and pagodas lie scattered around Bagan, one of Myanmar’s most spectacular destinations

Myanmar’s economic opening has brought many changes to its big cities. Its golden capital, Yangon, attracts foreign investment, while other destinations draw growing numbers of tourists. Bagan is the country’s best-known tourist site. Home to over 3,000 temples and pagodas built around the 13th century, Bagan covers some 42 square km along the Ayeyarwady River. This old city is a world wonder.

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Photo by adventureideas

It costs just 10,000 Kyats (US$10) per day to hire a horse-drawn carriage. I met an experienced, friendly and funny coachman named Ko Zaw Win, who lives in Bagan and speaks good English. He told me that, long ago, Bagan was home to around 4,000 temples and pagodas, of which some 3,000 remain today. My guide led me through small villages and up to temples located on high hills. Along the way, we met lovely children running barefoot, Bagan women with thanakha powder on their faces, and workers in small pottery kilns.

unlike the temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the most famous pagoda in Bagan is the white-painted Ananda Temple, which stands 52 meters high. The temple is nearly intact and a very good example of Myanmar’s ancient temple architecture. Ananda Temple is famous for four gilded wooden Buddha statues. Each statue stands 9.5 meters high and shows the Buddha in a different posture. Built by King Kyanzittha between 1090 and 1105, this temple has been renovated many times. Legend has it that the architect who designed the temple was killed by the king as soon as the temple was completed to preserve its uniqueness.

Shwesandaw Temple, also known as the Sunset Temple, is an ideal place to watch the sunset. At 5 pm, people flock to this temple. Visitors may be amazed to see photographers lugging heavy camera equipment up the temple’s narrow stairs. At sunset, visitors will understand this venues magic, as the hot red sun sinks below the horizon, its golden rays highlighting thousands of temple spires before everything fades into darkness. With no street lamps, we rode back to the hotel in darkness.

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At sunset, visitors will experience this venue’s magic, as the hot red sun sinks below the horizon and golden rays highlight thousands of temple spires. Photo by Cathyw228

At five the next morning, my guide and his horse-cart appeared in front of my hotel. We traveled along unlit roads, armed with an electric torch. Our destination was a hot air balloon. Visitors can enjoy one hour-long flights that depart from the north and arrive to the south of the city. While the tickets are expensive, Ko Zaw Win assured me the ride was worthwhile. He was right. Sunrise over Bagan is breathtaking. Before 6 a.m, the temples lie in thick mist. As the mist clears, colorful temples appear against the red-basalt soil and nestled into thick jungle Gilded wood, red bricks and white paint glow in the morning light. The view is unforgettable. This was the journey of a lifetime

By Hai Au

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Nam Du fantastic islands

Nam Du fantastic islands

Located 83km off the shore of Rach Gia in Vietnam’s southern Kien Giang province, the Nam Du Islands are unspoiled natural masterpieces. Comprising 21 islands of various sizes, the Nam Du Islands have a total land area of 1,500 hectares. Let’s discover the otherworldly beauty of Vietnam’s Nam Du islands

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With fine sand and azure water, there are many places o swim and sunbathe

From Rach Gia Wharf it takes about three hours to reach the islands. It’s no exaggeration to dub Nam Du “a southern Ha Long Bay” thanks to the archipelago’s tranquil and romantic beauty. A popular chant describes the islands as follows:

“Mau Islet leans against Do Nai
Do Nai turns to Bo Dap
Bo Dap overlaps Lo Islet
Lo Islet crashes against Cross Islet
Cross Islet comes across Dung Islet
Dung Islet meets Dau Islet
Dau Islet lies near Bo Ao
Bo Ao turns against Ong Islet
Ong Islet joins Dam Islet
Dam Islet overlooks Bamboo Islet
Bamboo Islet floats to Moc Islet
Moc Islet approaches Nhan Islet
Nhan Islet overshadows Han Islet
Han Islet lakes over the three Nom Islets
Nom Islets sweep over Kho Islet
Kho Islet reaches to the Chet shore
The Chet shore leans against the Major Islet…”

My first destination was Cu Tron Island, also known as Major Island. The largest of the 21 islands, it has the biggest population. A road runs for 2.6km from the heart of Major Island to its highest mount, which stands 295m tall. Since the climb was quite easy I decided to hike. Climbing the mount, I felt as if I was floating in a world of ocean and clouds. I was so fascinated by the scenery that, before I knew it, I had reached the summit. There, a lighthouse rises 309m like a devoted guard. Day and night, it guides ships safely back to shore. As I scanned the sea and the islands I wondered whether this archipelago had been formed by chance or as part of some greater plan by the Creator.

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Gazing upon the gleaming light from the offshore squid-fishing boats and the twinkling stars high overhead, the whole world seemed to sparkle

Near Major Island’s wharf a lane leads to some amazing rock formations. Stone slabs and lava have eroded with time and become fabulous natural sculptures, each with its own shape and pattern.
It takes 30 minutes by boat to travel 3.5 nautical miles east to reach Cross Islet. Drawing near this island I caught sight of lovely bamboo stilt huts beneath lush coconut trees. Seen from afar, boats lay shoulder to shoulder like a floating town on the sea. The island’s fishing villages were beautiful and peaceful. Here, I enjoyed some local delicacies including fresh crabs, oysters, scallops and squids at a beach side restaurant.
While life on Nam Du seems serene, the locals sometimes face harsh weather. The sea can be calm and benign, or violent with treacherous tides.

Let’s discover 7 impressive construction works of the world

From Cross Island I traveled to Mau Islet by canoe, admiring breathtaking beaches. With fine sand and azure water, there were many places to swim and sunbathe. As sunset fell, everything was drenched in liquid light. Gazing upon the gleaming light from the offshore squid-fishing boats and the twinkling stars high overhead, the whole world seemed to sparkle.

Set in the middle of the vast sea, these islands offer stunning ecological diversity and natural beauty. Spending time on these 21 islands was like visiting another world.

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