Linger a little
Published/Last edited or updated: 16th April, 2018
Can Tho’s main draw is the famous floating market but if visitors linger a little, they may be charmed by the city itself. A pedestrian-friendly riverfront and cheap, delicious local eats are reason enough to pause. Here’s how to spend two day in Can Tho: where to stay, what to eat, what to do.
Can Tho is a four-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City with departures from mid morning to arrive mid afternoon. If taking the Phuong Trang bus, upon arrival at the bus station, ask for the free shuttle which can drop you off at any hotel in the city centre.
There’s plenty of accommodation but the good ones do sell out, especially on weekends, so we recommend booking in advance. Backpackers will appreciate the clinical, no nonsense rooms at Thanh Ha Guesthouse, which is just a few blocks from the river. Even closer to the river, boat pier and the Hai Ba Trung night market is Ruby CT Hotel. Budget travellers who want to splurge for a river view, snag a front of house room at Thanh Thuy directly on the river road. Minh Vuong Hotel is unbeatable in terms of value for money—it’s our top pick so long as you don’t mind the location a kilometre away from the pier. Finally, for upscale travellers it’s an easy choice: Victoria Can Tho Resort is the city’s most luxurious—that is, until the Azerai opens in 2018. Looking for something more rustic and out in the countryside? Consider Nguyen Shack.
Upon check in, all hotels, big or small, will ask if you’ve booked a floating market boat trip yet. Through the hotel is the easiest way of arranging a tour for the next morning. It’s important to take the type that’s right for you. See our full run down on boat tours here.
It may be the largest city of the Mekong Delta, yet Can Tho is a modest size with a clear centre that most visitors will stick to. The riverfront along the Can Tho river is its heart. It is very walkable, a characteristic that you won’t find in many other cities in Vietnam so relish every step. A pathway interspersed with parks and trees runs between the Can Tho market and the night market, to the corner where there’s a cluster of large hotels (including TTC Hotel) and a pedestrian-only bridge, this distance about 550 m.
Do cross the bridge because the other side is the best part. The footpath follows along the water’s edge, past Victoria Can Tho Resort to the Hau River, and it has wide open views. Surprisingly few people venture here, not even those trying to sell you boat trips. It’s the perfect place for a sunset or sunrise stroll.
Feeling thirsty or peckish? Have a cool drink on Victoria Can Tho Resort’s floating restaurant. Or the night market back on Hai Ba Trung is good for a pre-dinner (or post-dinner) snack. Nibble on mango salad, Vietnamese rice paper “pizzas” or crepes. Save dinner for De Tham St, j450 m from the river. The street is lined with local eats like banh canh noodle soup, ban xeo and chicken rice.
If you’re feeling energetic, it’s back to the river to see it in a completely different light, quite literally. The street and bridge will be aglow with colourful lights and be full of Vietnamese tourists enjoying the atmosphere and the photo-ops. The stands at the night market are mostly for local tastes (shoes, bags, plastic gadgets and gizmos) but still worth the look. Lights and market promptly shut at around 21:45. Calling it a night isn’t such a bad idea since it’s an early wake up call the next morning.
Cai Rang floating market boat tours usually pick up around 05:00. It’s a six kilometre journey or 30-minute ride to the market. No need to have breakfast beforehand for there’s a good amount of on-water grazing to look forward to. Keep eyes peeled for the boats carrying coffee, fruit, coconuts, noodle soup or banh mi to hungry market sellers and tourists.
If the tour includes stops at some of the Delta’s cottage industries and boating around the smaller canals, they usually last six to seven hours, returning to Can Tho by noon. A siesta during the mid day heat may be in order.
For the afternoon there are a few minor, free sights to fill the time. The city is chock full of temples, many a short walk from the river. We highly recommend Ong Pagoda in the heart of the river road. The photogenic Chinese temple dates back to the 19th century.
It’s time to hit up the local night market Cho Dem Tran Phu, two kilometres north of the city centre at the end of Tran Phu St where it meets the river. It’s a seafood Shangri-La and locals flock here for fresh seafood, meat and vegetables prepared the way they like, most popularly as a hot pot or barbecued. After the cheap and cheerful meal (a seafood hot pot for two only 100,000 dong), load up at the buffet of sweet tropical fruits.
Final morning: try to get up reasonably early for a stroll through Can Tho’s central market, on the river just south of the boat pier. While not a novel experience like the floating market, on land you’ll see the sheer variety of produce, meat and seafood that the Mekong Delta produces.
Have a breakfast bowl of hu tieu noodle soup, a Mekong Delta speciality, before heading out. If returning to Ho Chi Minh City by Phuong Trang bus, the hotel should call and arrange a free pick up/shuttle to the station in advance. There are also domestic flights from Can Tho to Hanoi, Phu Quoc, Da Nang and Con Dao.
Cindy Fan is a Canadian writer/photographer and author of So Many Miles, a website that chronicles the love of adventure, food and culture. After falling in love with sticky rice and Mekong sunsets, in 2011 she uprooted her life in Toronto to live la vida Laos. She’s travelled to over 40 countries and harbours a deep affection for Africa and Southeast Asia. In between jaunts around the world, she calls Laos and Vietnam home where you’ll find her traipsing through rice paddies, standing beside broken-down buses and in villages laughing with the locals.
These tours are provided by Travelfish partner GetYourGuide.