Even though we were a little disappointed about our afternoon/evening in Can Tho, Annie and I remained optimistic because we knew our boat tour on Wednesday would be fun. And it was! We woke up at 4:30AM and met our tour guide in the lobby of the guesthouse at 5. She did not speak English very well so we didn’t know what we were actually doing or where we were going, but we followed her and eventually made it to the riverside and hopped on a boat. The walk to the river was an interesting one because it was pitch black outside, but there were still lots of people out and about. There were a number of people jogging or stretching and the local street vendors had already set up their stands. The day starts early in Vietnam!
Our boat was about the size of a canoe and powered by a motor controlled by our tour guide. We were on the water in the dark for about half an hour, but our visibility was decent and we were able to witness a lot that was going on around us. The river in Can Tho is completely surrounded by homes and local shops and restaurants. In addition to houses built on the land, there are also a number of people who lives on boats. They park along the side of the river at night and during the day are used to sell/transport goods. It was really fun witnessing the morning routines of all the people who live on the river. For these people, their lives revolve around the Mekong River. All of the homes on the river have doors that open up to the water and every morning people brush their teeth, bath and wash the dishes in the river. When it started getting light out, around 6AM, we saw children getting ready for school and adults making breakfast. All the people who live on the river keep their windows and doors open, so you can see right into their homes and see what everyone is doing. I can’t think of a better time or place to use the expression “Good Morning Vietnam!!!!!’ Here are some pictures to help you get an idea of what it’s like early in the morning.
It took us about an hour and a half to get to the first market. A floating market basically consists of a bunch of people selling fresh fruits and vegetables on their boats. They are all in very close proximity and in order to get access to the vendors need a boat to row through the mass of vendors and customers. The boats that people sell their fresh fruits and vegetables on are almost always where they live as well. So in addition to fresh produce, it is not uncommon to see clothes hanging to dry, hammocks set up to sleep on, shrines and incense used to honor dead ancestors, and people completing daily chores on the boats. Our tour guide bought us some grapefruit, papaya and fresh coconut from the first market.
After exploring the first market, our guide took us through some less crowded side canals to a local homestay establishment to have breakfast. We ate around 8:30AM and Annie and I were pretty tired at that point so we both ordered a cafe su da (iced coffee with condensed milk) to wake up. Unfortunately the coffee didn’t really work because we both fell asleep on the boat after breakfast and on our way to the next market!
The second market we visited is called Cai Rang Market and it is the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta. Cai Rang sold a lot of fruits, but they also had a huge selection of vegetables as well. Some boats specialize in one food and others sell a variety. You can tell what a boat is selling because vendors will stick whatever food they have on a huge stick that stands above the boat. It’s a pretty effective way to let people know what you have to offer. The boats at Cai Rang were, for the most part, larger than the boats at the first market…plenty of room for an entire family to live/sleep on the boat. I wish our guide had spoken a little English because I really want to know where and when they get all their produce to sell. That is something I’ll have to do some research on. For now I’ll leave you with some more pictures of the market. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have an entry up about the islands around the towns of My Tho and Ben Tre. But enjoy these pictures for now!