Cai Rang Floating Market – Real Life Of The Local People

Biggest floating market in Mekong Delta

Located in Can Tho city, Cai Rang floating market has been recognized the Intangible cultural heritage of Vietnam. If coming to Can Tho without visiting the floating market, you have missed the biggest opportunity. Departing from sunrise time, sitting on a boat, exploring the significant floating market with hundreds of boats selling different fruits and vegetables would be an incomparable experience. Moreover, a breakfast of bún riêu (rice noodle soup) or hủ tiếu (rice noodle soup of Southern Vietnam) prepared by local cooks on a floating boat is undoubtedly one thing that you can hardly find in other places. Then a dessert of tropical fruits bought from nearby boats will contribute to the memorable day in Can Tho.

A day at Cai Rang floating market

Starting from Ninh Kieu quay at 5:30 AM, I chose a small boat (sampan) to start the private tour to Cai Rang floating market. This way of transport could also give me more flexibility and comfort to move among the boats at the market and glide into the small canals of the region.

Along the waterway from Ninh Kieu quay to Cai Rang floating market, there are a lot to see about local life and have an overview of how people live on the two banks. A floating petrol station, some giant vessels with sand or cajuputs, people catching fish with traditional way, modern Vincom building of hotel and shopping center… together add to a lively mosaic of a developing city in the Mekong Delta.

Arriving at the market, the first word that I thought in my head is “Wow, AMAZING!”. The market was full of hundreds of small and big boats carrying all kinds of fruits and vegetables. From far away, the fruits and vegetables hung on bamboo sticks made the scene looks an odd spectacle that it’s hard to think of a market.

Bamboo stick at floating market
A boat of vegetables at Cai Rang floating market

Our little boat glided among plenty of boats, while we could see how the sellers and buyers talk and trade their goods and produce. Boats from big to small size are packed with numerous kinds of fruits vegetables: pineapple, mango, mangosteen, durian, potatoes, carrot, watermelon…

Small boats, which are usually from nearby markets, reached and stopped by the side of bigger boats. Then produce from the bigger ones was transferred to the smaller ones.

Cai Rang wholesale purchase
People purchasing fruits and vegetables

We took a slow and gentle ride to enjoy the special morning in the land of rivers. Sometimes, a sampan of drinks or local food come to us and offers what they sell. Trying a café on the boat, we had a very distinctive feeling. The floating café shop included a wide range of choices: soft drinks, café, hot tea, fresh coconut, salted lemon…

Coffee boat on the market
Coffee boat at the market

This was a typical wholesale market in the Mekong Delta that had a long time history. Hundreds of boats with several kinds of produce gather in a large area, so how can we know where to find things that we need? The sellers here thought of a unique way to let everybody knows what they are selling. Sample products are hanged on bamboo sticks, which are called “bẹo” in Vietnamese. People looking from far away can recognize what are sold on the boat. For instance, when seeing a pumpkin on the bamboo, we can easily know they are selling pumpkins on the boat.

Now, with its popularity, the market attracts visitors from other places around the world. It’s quite common to see any foreign tourist coming here show their excitement or engross in taking pictures. A camera would be one of the most important things to prepare for a tour to this spectacular floating market.

Another remarkable experience when visiting Cai Rang floating market is having breakfast on a floating boat. The breakfast in the South of Vietnam is often a bowl of “hủ tiếu”, “bún riêu” (rice noodle with hot soup), “bánh mì” (bread stuffed with vegetables, pork and egg) or “cơm tấm” (broken rice with grilled pork), all of which are prepared in a meticulous way that has been praised by a Master Chief USA, Gordon Ramsay, as a great standard of culinary. Cooked with fresh ingredients and delicate broth could satisfy any food-lover’s flavor. And eating on the unbalanced boat on the river certainly made it one of the most exceptional experiences in the Mekong Delta.

Lady selling Bun rieu
A lady selling Bun rieu and Hu tieu

Occasionally, some of the friendly traders invited us to buy their fruits. It’s easy to find that the fruits and vegetables are fresh and look attractive, which can be tried before you decide to buy. We did try a pineapple on the boat of the seller and were amazed by its sweetness and freshness.

After the floating market, we continued the way into small canals to other places like fruit gardens and rice noodle workshop.

Tips for a pleasant visit to Cai Rang floating market

Cai Rang floating market is an interesting attraction. However, the large number of tourist and competitiveness among tour operators has created a chaotic travel environment. Some tips are thus necessary to note before visiting this brilliant market.

What to wear

Just like being at any other market or supermarket, comfortable casual clothes are on your choice. However, the floating market is outdoor and on the water, which may add more heat to the market. Thus a hat, suncream or something to cover your body is recommended to avoid intense sunshine after a tour around the market.

Choosing a prestigious boat provider

Ninh Kieu quay is the most common place for departure to Cai Rang floating market. However, hundreds of people along the quay are ready to invite you boat rental, including xe om (motorbike taxi) or even some guys decoying tourists toward the price trap. If lucky, you can get good boats with proper price. Otherwise, you can get trapped with scams of crappy boats and being stuffed in unexpected grouped tours, which lead you to superficial trips and deprives you of chances to stop at the floating market or enjoy the time in a favorable way.

Choosing a quality proved company with clear price quote and commitment ensures you a trip that meets your expectation. Among the boat rental companies that we had reference, Mekong Smile Tour was what we decided to get the boat from. They are a local boat rental company with reviews (on Tripadvisor and Google) of quite good prestige and have their office at Ninh Kieu quay.

If going in a small group of 2-10 people, you can choose:

Or if you want to rent a private boat for yourself:

Price for renting a Boat to the floating market

TourUnitDurationsPick upPrice (VND)
Floating Market –Rice noodle homemadeSmall Boat03 HoursNinh Kieu Pier350.000
Floating Market – Rice noodle – Orchard Garden Small boat04 HoursNinh Kieu Pier400.000
Two floating markets – Small  CanalSmall boat06 hoursNinh Kieu Pier500.000
Small canalSmall boat03 hoursNinh Kieu Pier350.000

Choosing the suitable time to start the tour

Cai Rang floating market operates from the early morning to noon. You can depart from Ninh Kieu quay around 5:00 – 6:00 AM to avoid the intense sunshine and arrive at the market on the peak time. Or departing around 7:00 – 8:00 AM to get the best pictures with good lighting, but prepare some sun cream.

small boat
A small boat at the floating market

Some tricks and how to avoid them at the floating market

Trips to boring places that are often shopping points

When arriving at a shopping place, which usually has higher price than those in local markets or supermarkets, the boat driver will get some money from the shop owner. And the more you buy from the shop, the more he gets. You can deal with the driver not to stop at shopping places.

Too quick tour or going around for nothing

Some drivers only try to go as quickly as possible to finish the tour or spend your time at some meaningless shopping places. You’d better rent boats from qualified boat rental providers with a fair number of reviews on TripAdvisor or Google. Before starting the tour, it’s better to talk to the boat provider and understand your rights and what you can get from them. Within 2 – 4 hours of boat renting, you can ask the driver to go around the market 2-3 times for more time of experience. You can flexibly change the places in advance. Remember some tip for a good driver!

2 thoughts on “Cai Rang Floating Market – Real Life Of The Local People

  1. Jennie Board says:

    Hi team,
    I am from New Zealand and I really love paddling. I do waka ama and dragon boating. I want to explore as much of your river as possible. Can you put together a package of all available. I am ready to attend from the 5th of July as my travel plans fell through.

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