When you visit the floating markets of the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, there are two main markets: Cai Rang and Cai Be. Cai Rang is the larger and more popular market, while Cai Be is tiny with only a few boats in operation. So is Cai Be even worth your time? Yes, if you’re interested in getting an authentic taste of small town Vietnam. Find out more in today’s blog on the Cai Be floating markets.
Although the floating markets of the Mekong Delta are on the wane, the Cai Rang floating markets – at the time of my visit – was comprised of about 20 boats. The wholesale fruit and vegetable sellers are in business, but the main trade is in tourists who swarm the sellers hoping for a sensational Instagram selfie. [Visit my blog to read all about the Cai Rang floating markets.]
In comparison, the Cai Be floating markets consist of only 5 to 7 boats — total. There’s just not that much going on in Cai Be, but that’s part of the city’s charm. In your tour of Vietnam, if all you want is a glimpse of what the floating markets look like, then head straight to Cai Rang and don’t waste your time visiting Cai Be. If you’re going to come to Cai Be, don’t do it for the floating markets; do it for a taste of small-town life. It’s really worth it.
Cai Be Floating Markets – Getting There
Getting to Cai Be is a long and arduous process, and personally, I found the bus system to get to from Can Tho to Cai Be to be both complicated and confusing. I ended up taking a bus from Can Tho to Vinh Long, and from here took a very long taxi ride to my hotel in Cai Be. If I had to do it all over again, I probably would have hopped on the back of a moto-taxi, but at the time I was petrified of having my camera equipment out on the open road. Still, it took half a day to get to my hotel. There has got to be a better way to get from Can Tho to Cai Be, but at the time I couldn’t figure it out.
Cai Be Floating Markets – My Hotel
Cai Be has two main streets, and the tourist infrastructure is equally small. My hotel, the Sao Mai Hotel, felt like a quiet oasis in comparison to the hustle and bustle of Can Tho. But I should note it was also very isolated. It was me and one couple staying in the other end of the hotel. The staff was helpful, my room was large, the hot water worked, and the hotel served food. This was a good thing because there weren’t that many restaurants located close to the hotel.
Sao Mai Hotel
306 An Loi Village, Dong Hoa Hiep, Cai Be, Cai Be (Tien Giang)
2 nights, standard double room
Shower, AC, Wi-Fi
Cai Be Floating Markets – Visiting the Markets and Beyond
The morning that I visited the Chai bay floating markets, I had one of the most glorious sunrises of my entire trip. The sky was amazingly pink and beautiful. T he market had just opened up, and it was great to walk along the road and see the city come to life. I was up so early that I had to wait for the floating markets to begin, so I sat down at a coffee shop to have a cup of Vietnamese coffee. I was the only woman there, so I wasn’t sure if it was inappropriate for me to sit there or not. The old men sitting at the coffee shop seemed thrilled, however, that I had joined them for a morning cup of Joe.
At 7:00 AM I walked over to the river to watch the boats arrive for the floating market. There was no real way to photograph the boats, however. In Cai Rang there are a multitude of boat operators ready to take you closer to the action, but no such operators exist in Cai Be. I was basically stuck on the shore, and had to sneak behind a house to get close to the water. I think most people visit the Cai Be floating market as part of a larger tourist package where they first go to Cai Rang and then mosey over to Cai Be by way of the river.
But with no pack of tourists to glom on to, I was left to explore the small town of Cai Be on my own. There is a bustling market that was a great source for street photography. There are also some outlying islands that you can get to by means of a local ferry. It was a bit confusing to find out which ferry I needed to use, but some helpful locals got me where I needed to be and soon I was headed on my way to the island of Tan Phong.
Cai Be Floating Markets – Visiting Tan Phong
The island of Tan Phong is crisscrossed by a series of canals, and most of the homes are precious little storybook houses, Vietnamese-style. Most of the houses have lush gardens around them and there are photogenic little canoes in just about every canal. I had a great time getting lost in the small streets and simply walking around saying hello to the neighbors. There was a Dai Dao temple that was fascinating. Inside I found the keeper of the temple fast asleep, and I made sure not to wake him. There were a few little restaurants and cafés, and at some point I found a bodega to get some picnic supplies. It was hot and humid, but being able to walk around in the quiet and just see what everyday life is like in Vietnam was a nice change from the craziness of Cambodia and Can Tho. This was my only taste of small-town life in Vietnam, and it remains one of the highlights of my trip.
So should you visit Cai Be? To me it was well worth it.
Coming up in the next blog: Fast times in Ho Chi Minh City
If you would like to see more images from my travel portfolio, then please visit my website — www.Kelly-Williams.com