No trip to the south of Vietnam is complete without a stop in the Mekong Delta and the usual destination is Can Tho. Though primarily known for its vibrant floating markets, it has enough to see to keep you occupied for a little longer. Here’s how we’d suggest spending two days.
You’ll probably arrive in the early afternoon if you take the early bus from Ho Chi Minh City, so the first order of business is finding accommodation. Due to its popularity as a tourist destination, there is plenty to be had across price ranges. If you are on a budget, Tay Ho Hotel is a good option due to its central location, clean rooms and cheap prices, with rooms starting at 300,000 VND. If this is booked out, try Hien Guesthouse (do try the house-made yoghurt) or neighbouring Thanh Ha. Good midrange options are Hau Giang and Saigon Can Tho, while if you are looking to splash out, look no further than Kim Tho or Golf Hotel.
For lunch, check out Phong Nam, which has front and centre seating to the action on the riverside. Or try Cay Me, which has some of the best banh cuon this side of the Mekong. Originally a dish from the north, southerners spruce these pork-stuffed rice rolls by adding in fresh basil, bean sprouts and a tangy nuoc cham dipping sauce.
Next: exploring. Take a stroll to Can Tho Museum, though do make sure you arrive on the right day as the museum is closed on Mondays and Fridays (and also for a long lunch break). Try the cafe sua da at their cafe, then pop across the street to the Can Tho Military Museum, which houses rather drab and rusting war relics but it’s free — and you should check out the two stained glass windows done in 1960s-style propaganda art at the back.
For a pre-dinner drink, head to Kim Tho Hotel’s 12th floor cafe-bar which boasts stunning views of Can Tho Bridge and Ninh Kieu Quay. Then for dinner, Nam Bo is the high-end option, while the more budget conscious should head along Phan Chu Trinh for street fare. For a nightcap, check out head Cappuccino, which has the cheapest Tiger beer in the Mekong with a 450ml bottle running 50,000 VND.
Next morning, wake up way too early to check out Cai Rang floating market — most tours start at 6am as the market tends to wind down by 9am. The Delta’s abundant produce is on show as you watch a lively scene that has played out across the generations living on and around the Mekong. Farmers in small boats ply their wares to buyers in larger boats, which will eventually make the long trip to Ho Chi Minh City.
If you are in need of breakfast, be patient — someone will eventually pull up to your boat with coffee and either some hu tieu or chao for you to munch on. Depending on how long your tour is, you might be able to check out some of the smaller canals as well, which we would recommend.
Load up on some more caffeine at Hop Pho, a Can Tho mainstay serving coffee and ice cream, then for lunch, head to Nam Ky Khoi Nghia, which offers an abundance of local eats such as nem nuong. If you are in the mood for pho, head to Pho Oanh on Ly Tu Trong and make sure to get a stick of bo nem nuong with your soup.
Spend the rest of your afternoon touring Can Tho’s four notable pagodas: Buu Tri, Quang Duc, Phat Hoc and Chua Munirensay. While the first three are typical of pagodas in Vietnam, the last reflects the style of the former Khmer owners of the region, with its bright yellows and oranges standing in contrast to the usual browns seen in Vietnamese pagodas. Monks in the pagoda will gladly show you around.
For something a bit different, grab dinner on Nha Hang Du Thuyen, a floating restaurant on a three-decker boat. The boat leaves at 19:30 and serves local fare at higher prices than you’ll find on land, but the premium is worth it. Grab a seat on the top deck and dine al fresco with view of Can Tho town on one side and the bridge on the other. Do note that once you are on, you are there until 21:00.
For something a bit cheaper, head to De Tham Street, a magnet for hungry locals. We suggest the tasty grilled chicken wings you’ll find at a small green house about 100 metres past Hem 88. Round out your night with a bit of shopping at the Can Tho Night Market.
Can Tho is the largest city in the Mekong Delta, which makes it a hub for transport in the region. From Saigon, a bus will take four hours and cost 120,000 VND. It is also possible to fly to Can Tho with regular flights on Vietnam Airlines from Danang, Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, and Phu Quoc Island.
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