Can Tho was my first city to stay in on the mainland of Vietnam. I simply went to see their famous floating market but was shocked at how much I enjoyed the city. Can Tho is the 5th largest city in Vietnam and is situated on the Hau river, which is a distributary of the Mekong Delta. It is the largest city in the Mekong region and has a population of about 1.5 million people. Most famous for its floating market, fresh fruits, Buddhist pagodas and delicious foods.
Can Tho is a beautiful, buzzing city. The city is full of gorgeous French colonial buildings with fantastic back alleys screaming of culture. There is a large mall and shopping center, several small businesses, tons of accommodation, so much food, a night market and of course the famous floating market. I stayed in Can Tho for 3 nights at a quiet hostel down a back alley. The hostel was a capsule style, which means you have a little cubby with a curtain that you sleep in. The rooms were small but I was alone for the last two nights so no complaints here. The hostel was great except they don’t offer any food. Which wouldn’t typically bother me, but it rained a lot while I was there and I had to go without food a few times because I didn’t want to walk in the rain.
There were so many different restaurants and food options, mostly Vietnamese. There was also several street vendors selling banh mi and noodle soups on the sidewalk with tiny little plastic tables and chairs. Tea and coffee houses were on every corner like Starbucks back home. Most menus were not in English so I played a lot of charades and pointing. It’s crazy in Vietnam because they don’t waste anything. They eat it all. I typically have no idea what I’m eating but it always tastes so good. I imagine things we would never consider eating, they eat all the time, and know how to prepare it so that it actually tastes good. My favorite question is “what have you been eating?” Because my answer never changes. Couldn’t tell ya, but it tastes good!
The day I arrived I booked a ticket to the floating market for the following day. I’m so glad I decided to go that day because the next two days were very rainy and it just wouldn’t be the same in the rain. I booked through my hostel and in the AM walked down to the pier and was directed to sit down with a Vietnamese family that runs a boat tour through the floating market. You can tell they get up early and do this everyday. It was a family of 5 and they had a whole set up of food, coffee and beads to make what looked like bracelets, while they hang out all morning. I had arrived early on purpose so that I could people watch, mostly I just sat with the family and had non verbal communication with them. Even the Father was there making bracelets with the girls. It reminded me of my mom and I sitting around making jewelry.
When it was time to go I was ushered down to the water and helped onto a long wooden boat with fold out chairs for seating. I was on the boat with an entire tour bus of people. I assume they all came together on a tour from Ho Chi Minh City, which is the most popular way to visit the floating market. A young Vietnamese boy sat next to me and looked like someone had killed his kitten and then drug him along on the tour against his will. I tried, and failed at making him lighten up or at least smile. I completely gave up after that and chose to ignore his grumpy ass for the remainder of our time together. No moody teenager is going to bring me down.
The ride out to the market was a quick 20 or so minutes and was awesome. You get to see all the homes and businesses built right on the water, and held up by stilts, some of them I have no idea how they are still standing. You can see right into many of the homes where kids are playing and woman are cooking or hanging laundry out to dry. When you arrive at the market you go under a huge bridge that signals the start of the market. Right away small boats cruise up and hook onto your boat and try to sell coffee, fruit, veggies, bahn mi sandwiches and even noodle soup. If you order a soup they serve it to you in a bowl and then hang out until you are done and return the bowl.
We floated the length of the market stopping every time a boat would hook onto us. Then we pulled up next to a large boat with a woman cutting pineapples. We were able to get on her boat which was amazing and you could see the entire market and all its vendors. I bought some mangos from one boat and a fresh Vietnamese coffee from another. One of the girls on the tour with me was helping me communicate and barter, since I couldn’t understand anything.
We stopped one more time before heading back into town. We stopped at a factory where they make rice noodles and everything imaginable made from coconut. We watched the process for making rice noodles and wandered around the coconut shop. I bought a few coconut snacks as well as coconut chap stick and soup. They even had coconut wine which was interesting and very strong. I’ve mostly only been drinking beer on this trip and my little shot of coconut wine had me feeling a bit tipsy. Go me! We then headed back to the pier where we unloaded and I headed back into town.
The next two days were both pretty rainy. One day it rained almost all day and I stayed in, worked on my blog, read and watched Netflix. The last day was nice enough in the morning to walk down to the mall and shopping center. I was still on the hunt for some new sandals after a dog stole one of mine. I also desperately needed new clothes because I want to burn everything in my bag because I’m so sick of it. It’s hilarious shopping for an oversized American here in Asia, because absolutely nothing fits. Even a XXL usually won’t fit me. If you ever want to feel like an overweight giant just head over to Asia and try on some clothes.
As soon as you walk into a shop, the girls working there will come right to your side and stay there until you leave. I know this is just what they do here, but it stresses me out. They would pick out things from the racks and hold them out for me to try. Now I know there is nothing attractive about the clothes I have been wearing for 5 months, and I know I look like a giant freak to them, but they would pick out the most frumpy looking clothes as suggestions to me. I didn’t quite know how to respond, so I typically just laughed out loud and shook my head. I tried a few things on with no success. I was mostly shopping for dresses, shorts or pants and none of them would even fit over my thighs.
On my walk back to the hostel, feeling like a fatty, I stopped into a shoe shop to look for some new sandals. The cute little Vietnamese girl who came to assist me was so confused because I was looking at the men’s sandals. Honestly, I have always bought men’s sandals, even in the states. Woman’s sandals always have sequins and high heels and I’m just not into that. The girl was so insistent that I buy woman’s sandals, like it was a crime that I just wanted some plain old black sandals. In the end I was allowed to purchase the men’s sandals that I had picked out. I walked back feeling much better that the day of shopping, which I hate mind you, wasn’t a complete bust. By the grace of god, I made it back to the hostel just as it started to dump rain again.
It rained the rest of my final day in Can Tho. I never made it to the night market and I was a bit bummed about that. But I’m not a contender with rain. No thank you. I had purchased a small fruit knife that day and I ate the remaining 2 mangos and coconut treats for dinner. I know, dinner of champions. The next morning I caught a bus to the amazing Ho Chi Minh City.
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