The extraordinary floating markets of the West

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The West of Viet Nam is known as the land of "Nine Dragons", where there are large rivers spanning a total length of 54,000km overflowing the riversides and boats arriving back and forth at any time of the day. Characterized by an intertwined network of thousands of rivers and estuaries, the Western region is known for holding the specialty of the river region, which is the floating market. Although every market activity is made on the river, the floating market has almost no shortage of any items - from fruits, seafood, poultry to fabrics, shoes, sewing needles, etc. In particular, many customers find it interesting that each floating market is uniquely attractive for its distinguished features.

Cai Rang floating market (Can Tho). Photo: Pham Duc Minh

Cai Rang floating market

Located about 6km away from Can Tho city on Cai Rang river, Cai Rang floating market has become a memorable and must-see place when traveling to Can Tho; for more information, visitors can take a 30-minute boat from Ninh Kieu wharf to get here.

As one of the three largest floating markets in the Southwest region, Cai Rang’s early morning is crowded with buyers and sellers from hundreds of all-size boats parked close to each other. On weekdays, the market opens from 3 am to 9 am and operates almost all day every day when it’s about Tet - Vietnamese Lunar New Year. At Cai Rang floating market, boats are full of fruits, agricultural products, and, in specific, indigenous Tay Do-style dining experiences. You will be impressed with the unique marketing method of "hanging sale”: The vendors hang things for sale on a pole - called "bẹo" - so that visitors can see it from afar.

Cai Be floating market (Tien Giang). Photo: Nguyen Vinh Hien

Cai Be floating market

Formed in the 18th century, Cai Be floating market is the contiguous area among three provinces of Vinh Long, Ben Tre, and Tien Giang. This age-old floating market in Tien Giang attracts visitors by its crowded atmosphere with boats moving in every direction as well as the water-colored paintings marking the scene of gardens after gardens; sometimes, these paintings also focus on the streetside along the river or under the rows of the nipa coconut trees and the typical Western cork ridges. There are various goods here ranging from fruits, poultry, seafood, to household items or fabrics; if you want to buy anything as a gift, you can choose among sugar tangerine, coconut candy, or coconut soap - a famous specialty of Cai Be. The market only opens from 2 am to 8 am, so it is recommended that you should visit at an early time.

Phung Hiep floating market (Hau Giang). Photo: Mai Loc

Phung Hiep floating market

Phung Hiep floating market in Hau Giang is located on Phung Hiep crossroads where the 7 river lines converge; therefore, it’s also frequently called the Nga Bay (seven-way crossroad) market. Phung Hiep market gathers hundreds of boats with specialty goods. In addition to these Western native foods, visitors can buy the famous handicrafts of Hau Giang as souvenirs and gifts. Phung Hiep is notable for its snake market with products made of snakes including the exclusive snake wine, and, besides, there also sell turtles, geckos, iguanas, etc.

Tra On floating market (Vinh Long). Photo: Do Thanh Mai

Tra On floating market

Located 250m away from Tra On rivulet mouth of Vinh Long province, Tra On floating market is positioned downstream of Hau river, which spans the length of over 300m. A special thing about the mark is that its operation depends on the coverage of river surface area, so the market is crowded whenever the water surface is widely extended. Tra On floating market operates as a wholesale market in which products are distributed in the form of wholesale for which agricultural products include yams, sweet potatoes, cucumbers, bitter melon, etc., and fruits like Tan Thanh king orange, Hoa Binh star apple, and Luc Si Thanh durian. Another difference of Tra On market is that there are boats selling colorful and fancy decorative flowers. Additionally, Tra On’s all-time favorite specialty food - hilsa fish - being processed into a bunch of different products that can't be found anywhere else.

Things to know when visiting the western floating markets

Visitors should bring along clothes made of colored fabrics, easy to wash, rubber sandals, slippers, and waterproof shoes; also, remember to bring anti-mosquito ointment and anti-infection medicine.

Visitors should always wear life jackets when traveling by canoe, ferry, boat, ship, etc. If the group is too crowded while traveling, they should be split into both sides of the vehicles so that the ship can move easily, and avoid tilting leading to flipping. Visitors should also not put their hands on the sides of the ship so as not to get injured in case of colliding with other ships and boats.

Source: Vietnam Today