Cao Lanh is no slouch when it comes to food, and while, thanks to the town having a spacious layout, there is some legwork involved, with your own transport all the following is within easy reach (or with a bit of wandering).
Start your day with a 6,000 dong banh mi from Banh Mi Hong Ngoc 17 on Nguyen Hue, where the glass fronted hole in the wall has a team of staff churning out banh mi at an exhilarating pace. Once you have your breakfast torpedo in your hand, continue up Nguyen Hue and take a left before the road crosses the river. Here you’ll find the charming May Coffee And Tea, which is a modern cafe inside and has a few lazy chairs out on the pavement facing towards the river. Coffee here starts at 14,000 dong, but they also do tea, smoothies and blended ice concoctions.
As with most Vietnamese towns, Cao Lanh has absolutely no shortage of coffee shops, and it is hard to go wrong. We enjoyed an iced milk coffee in a lazy chair on the shady pavement at Coffee 247 which you’ll find at the corner of Ly Thong Kiet and Nguyen Du, by the northern end of the market and opposite one of the entrances to the bus station. This is a good spot for a quick hit if you are waiting for a bus departure. Up on the southern side of the central lake, almost beside the Huong Sen Hotel, you’ll find the simple but comfortable Cafe Luky 8, where you can plonk yourself in one of their lazy chairs or pop across the road to enjoy your coffee right by the water. At the northern end of town, Ly Thong Kiet is lined with a bunch of comfortable cafes which, while they can get quite busy come the evening, we enjoyed a quiet afternoon coffee at Caphe Hung Phung.
Suitably caffeinated, for daytime noodles we have two recommendations. If, like us, you choose to stay at the Lan Thai Ngoc, then just a hop skip and a jump from there, around the corner on Dang Van Binh, you’ll find Pho 17 Hanoi which does a decent steaming bowl, but if you have your own wheels or are staying over near the market, then Pho Bac Ha, near the intersection of Ly Thong Kiet and Nguyen Du is the better option and offers a broader range of dishes than pho alone. Another place we saw but didn’t try, was Quan Bun Bo Hue on Nguyen Trai—it was doing a roaring trade when we walked past but as we’d just eaten we couldn’t fit another bowl in. This street is another good one for cafe crawling, with quite a few spots to choose from.
Come the evening, the action is centred around the norther reaches of the lake area, with a selection of boisterous places where the ice cold beers flow as quickly as the food. Lang Viet is a beer hall come restaurant with a fun atmosphere and friendly patrons (the table next to us ordered more food for us to try) and we tried trung ga non chay toi here. It was a new dish for us, essentially a hot plate of baby (by baby we mean yet to be laid) chicken eggs and mixed vegetables (110,000 dong)—it was better than it sounded!
A five minute walk from Lang Viet will take you to the heavingly popular Quan Oc 16H Plus where the food (primarily shellfish) is served on an upstairs terrace. We tried the ngheu hap sa—steamed clams in a lemongrass and chilli broth (40,000 dong) and had no complaints. You’ll find it on the north running lane between Tran Phu and Duong SO 4 off of Ton Duc Thang—you’ll hear it before you see it. If neither unlaid eggs nor shellfish appeal, Bun Hue Chay 143 a little up the road to the north on Ton Duc Thang does, you guessed it, vegetarian bowls.
For a downtown sit down meal is a more western restaurant setting, Ngoc Lan on Nguyen Hue is a good choice with a wide–ranging English menu and not unreasonable prices. It lacks for the atmosphere of the places clustered around the northern area of the lake, but works nonetheless.
Cao Lanh has a night market, which sets up every evening on Dang Van Binh where it runs along to Tran Hung Dao which runs along the western bank of the Dinh Trung river. The night market is not a food market, rather it is (primarily cloth) shopping, but on Tran Hung Dao, both to the north and south are a bunch a restaurants which looked like they would be worth trying—we just didn’t have time to sit down and try any ourselves.
Also in the same are (and also untried by us, but recommended by friends in Ho Chi Minh City), on the far side of this same river are a bunch of ban xeo places running along Le Duan (the road which runs parallel to Tran Hung Dao but on the far side of the river. Again, we didn’t have time to try these out, but they came very highly recommended.
Ban Xeo joints All along Le Duan, Cao Lanh.; .
Banh Mi Hong Ngoc 17 42 Nguyen Hue, Cao Lanh.; .
Bun Hue Chay 143 143 Ton Duc Thang, Cao Lanh.; .
Cafe Luky 8 Almost beside the Huong Sen Hotel, Vo Truong Toan, Cao Lanh.; .
Cao Lanh Night Market Dang Van Binh, Cao Lanh.; .
Caphe Hung Phung Ly Thong Kiet, Cao Lanh.; T: (0939) 414 796; .
Coffee 247 Ly Thong Kiet and Nguyen Du, Cao Lanh.; .
Lang Viet 115-117 Ton Duc Thang, Cao Lanh.; T: (0277) 398 7779; .
May Coffee And Tea 1 Hai Ba Trung, Cao Lanh; T: (0673) 666 663; https://www.facebook.com/maycaolanh Mo–Su: 07:00–23:00.
Ngoc Lan 210 Nguyen Hue, Cao Lanh.; T: (0277) 385 1498; .
Pho 17 Hanoi 17 Dang Van Binh, Cao Lanh; .
Pho Bac Ha 74 Ly Thong Kiet, Cao Lanh.; .
Quan Bun Bo Hue 57 Hue Nguyen Trai, Cao Lanh; .
Quan Oc 16H Plus Between Tran Phu and Duong SO 4 off of Ton Duc Thang, Cao Lanh.; .
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.