With a population of over two million, CanTho is the largest city on the Mekong Delta and the fifth-largest city in Vietnam, just behind Danang.
Set at a confluence of two smaller Mekong tributaries (the Hao Giang and the Can Tho rivers), it makes a great base for canal tours to the surrounding countryside. Can Tho’s quaint riverside location has given rise to a few new semiluxe hotels, and it has become a popular honeymoon destination for Saigon couples. A visit to the floating markets, the city’s massive central market, or outlying riverside towns is memorable. Travel in and around Can Tho is best arranged with a tour group or good private guide who can take you to all the right places: the impressive floating market, rice-paper-making and weaving villages, small factories, and picturesque rural canals.
The real attractions in Can Tho are the floating markets and riverside life. Most days in this part of the delta begin early, around 6am. You’ll go by boat on a circuitous route to a number of rural sights, including the large Cai Rang Floating Market, where you’re not sure who’s watching whom as your tiny long-tail boat makes its way among busy sellers in packed sampan-style boats great photo opportunities and best early in the morning. A number of handicraft villages are in the area, and boat trips make stops at some rather canned tour attractions, the likes of a weaving village, rice-paper factory, vermicelli-production plant, rice mill, and cool “monkey bridge” made of vines as well as a large island orchard. The riverside scenery is beautiful and the sights, though touristy, are quite interesting. Other floating markets include Phong Dien and Phong Hiep, both slightly farther afield and part of an all-day loop with stops at a small mangrove swamp. If you arrive in the city in the midafternoon and have some free time on tour or while in transit back to Saigon, check out the few sights below:
Army Museum The Army Museum is an interesting visit and just across Hoa Binh Street (away from the river) from the Can Tho Museum. An interesting display of weaponry, maps, photos, stained glass, and memorabilia from Vietnam’s long Struggles are on display. At the center is a small “hooch, ” or thatched building, housing a mannequin meeting of high-level Viet Cong guerrillas on the delta. Outside are a rusty missile, a crashed “Huey” helicopter, a U. S. recon plane, and a few Peugeot cars up on blocks (not sure if they are an exhibit or a repair project).
Can Tho City Museum A comprehensive and colorful museum of local history, industry, custom, Chinese population, and the region’s role during colonial repression, as well as during the war years with the United States. Maps are detailed but indecipherable. You won’t find any signs in English, but that doesn’t matter, as most exhibits, like the scenes and images of the delta’s history, are interesting and self-explanatory. Go with a guide if you want to get background information. The second floor is a patriotic display of war remnants. There’s also a model Chinese apothecary and temple in homage to the regions large Chinese population, local musical instruments, and a large diorama of a wedding procession. You’ll see a bust of Ho Chi Minh and other Vietnamese patriots in the lobby. A visit here combined with a tour of the Army Museum (see above) is a good little city walk.
Riverside Market and Can Tho Market Hall Riverside market is a typical, local wet market located near the center of town. Come here to wander through the stalls with the locals and see the varied aquatic life (turtles, fish, and snakes, oh my! ) and veggies on offer in the Mekong Delta. It’s located next to the river, but unfortunately everything is indoors, so there’s not much of a view and pretty much no ventilation. If you’re squeamish about dirty feet, wear dosed-toe shoes when you visit. Next door to Riverside is the old Can Tho Market Hall, which dates back to 1913. It’s a dry market selling mostly clothes and trinkets. The market is housed in a bright, cheery yellow building and is very neat and tidy. It’s geared for tourists. The Sao Horn restaurant at the back of the market is my top choice for a coffee break.