The night market in Taiwan? The markets in Bangkok? Seattle’s Pike’s Market? Santa Monica’s farmer’s market? Your local Whole Foods? Mine is the Cai Rang floating market in Can Tho, in the heart of the Mekong Delta of Vietnam. One visit to this market will blow away any Western notions of a traditional marketplace with clean organized aisles. A “biological treasure trove,” the Mekong river and its tributaries form the life blood for the local farmers and inhabitants. Supplying the rich fertile soil for agriculture, the rivers of the delta also serves as the inhabitants homes, roads, highways, and meeting places.
You’ll have to wake up early to enjoy the full spectacle. I mean 4 am early. Market hours are typically 4 am to 9 am. My first time there, we hired one of the many people at the docks with boats to ferry us around. Some ferries are motorized, some still use oars. I love watching the symmetry and effortless motion of the of the locals so I opted for non-motorized boats.
As the sun rises on the horizon, so do the locals, ferrying boats loaded with fruits and vegetables ready to trade and sell. Durian, jackfruit, rambutan, longan, and my favorite mangosteens….it’s all here. Cai Rang is mainly a wholesale market, but if you want something just pull your boat up and they’ll sell it by the pound. It’s hard to hear on the river with the rolling waves and motor boats so each boat has a large stick, called “cay beo”, from which the sellers hang their products, called “treo beo.” Plus, it’s easier to see what they’re selling from afar. A boat sells yam in photo above.
Hungry for breakfast? Unlike deli and coffee counters, there are plenty of food vendors gliding and weaving around like water bugs, selling everything from cafe sua da (Vietnamese iced coffee), banh mi, and pho. Go ahead, eat right on your boat and continue to shop around. The vendor will eventually find you and take her bowls and chopsticks back…