You’ve been to the bustling city of Hanoi, you’ve also cruised through the crowded waters of Ha Long Bay. All the excitement makes you think that it’s time to wind down and get back in touch with nature. So where do you go? Ask your Vietnamese friends, and they will tell you that the Mekong Delta Region is the ideal place for some peace and quiet in the countryside.
Located in Southern Vietnam, Mekong Delta is a dizzyingly beautiful maze of canals and rivers dotted with small islands, a region famous for its mangrove forests, pagodas, delicious food, Khmer influence, fresh produce and floating markets. Being the largest settlement in the region, Can Tho is well equipped with all the modern trappings, making it the perfect jumping off point for your trip around the Mekong Delta Region.
If you are looking for things to do, don’t worry because we’ve got you covered. Here is a list of must-dos in Can Tho:
1. Visit Cai Rang Floating Market (Chợ Nổi Cái Răng)
Mekong Delta Region was famous for its floating markets, but their number has been decreasing in recent years. Cai Rang Floating Market is arguably the largest and the most accessible one, but even then it has been reported that there have been fewer and fewer vendors now so you better plan your visit soon!
One unique feature of the market is that vendors stick up a pole and hang the particular produce they have to sell on top of it. What an ingenious way to advertise! Imagine if they did the same thing with drones and laptops, it would certainly make for an interesting scene!
If you’re pressed for time you can just take a river cruise with a bigger boat, but you should really charter a smaller boat if you have the time and budget for it. This will allow you to have an up close and personal experience on how boats pull up next to each other to do their transactions.
2. Go On a Can Tho Canal River Tour
While you’re on your small boat, you have the option to continue your tour into the canals. Mekong Delta region is a bewildering water system of over 54,000 kilometres (33,500 miles) long. This tour will give you the chance to see how real people live in this fascinating water world, as well as the various attractions by the water like farms, temples, restaurants and many more.
3. Visit a Traditional Noodle-making Home Industry
At the end of your riverine tour, you have the option to visit a traditional home industry, a popular one is a visit to a rice noodle factory where everything is still done traditionally. Here you can get your hands on simple noodle-making tools, lunch on freshly made noodles and buy some foodstuff to take home.
4. Experience Country Lifestyle in Lung Cot Cau Eco Tourism Area (Khu Du Lịch Sinh Thái Ông Đề Lung Cot Cau)
Local tourists go to Can Tho to experience life in the countryside and they do it at a special kind of ‘theme park’ like Lung Cot Cau, where you can dress like a local rice farmer and catch fish in ditches and row your own raft. After catching your fish, you can ask the staff to cook them for you. Needless to say, food served here is fresh and delicious. Don’t miss out on the traditional hot pot with snakehead fish. The coconut water used for the broth is heavenly!
It’s always fun to get down and dirty, but please be forewarned that the showering facility is quite basic. Don’t go expecting a rain shower and free-standing bath tub. It’s better to bring your own towel and toiletries.
5. Meet the Lover at Binh Thuy Ancient House (Nhà Cổ Bình Thủy)
Located just on the outskirts of the city, Binh Thuy Ancient House offers a glimpse into the region’s history. First built in 1870 by a rich merchant and landowner Duong Chan Ky, the architecture of the house represents harmony between the East and the West influences. The photogenic house has been featured in many movies, including L’Amant (The Lover) by French director J. Annaud.
6. Live the Landlord’s Lifestyle at My Khanh Tourist Village (Làng du lịch Mỹ Khánh)
Now that you know what a landowner’s house looks like, maybe you’re wondering how it was like to be that powerful? Well, you can experience it at My Khanh Tourist Village. Local tourist groups love getting all decked out as a Dien Chu (title of a landlord in imperial Vietnam), his wife and his whole entourage, and walk around the park with staff dressed up as servants following around with their umbrellas and hand fans.
Playing dress-up is not your cup of tea? You can always opt just to have Dien Chu Rice, a typical meal served for the landlord and his family. You will be afforded with a special experience to have your scrumptious meal at a pavilion right outside a real landlord’s house, transported to the tourist village from its original location.
7. Cook Up a Storm at Son Islet (Cồn Sơn)
Con Son is a sleepy islet where you can experience the countryside lifestyle firsthand. Some of the households on the islet offer visitors a peek into their lives. It’s possible to do a homestay here, but most tourists opt to drop by just to take up a class on making traditional cakes and rustic local dishes as well as to pick fruits. Otherwise, you can just take your own sweet time to stroll around the islet and experience the rural lifestyle of farmers and fishermen in Southern Vietnam.
8. Take Some Pictures for the ‘Gram at Gian Gua Historical Site (Khu di tích lịch sử Giàn Gừa)
Being in Gian Gua is like stepping into an enchanted forest, what with the voluminous roots and branches crisscrossing to create a web of greenery wonder. There are stories of how it served as a hiding place for the Vietnamese soldiers during the Vietnam War, but we suspect most of the tourists who come to visit are mostly looking for a background for their next #potd.
9. Get Some Peace of Mind at Truc Lam Phuong Nam Zen Monastery (Thiền Viện Trúc Lâm Phương Nam)
True to its name, the Zen monastery offers weary travellers a graceful and peaceful place of shelter. Covering a land area of approximately 38,016 square meters, it’s reputed to be the largest monastery in the whole region. Don’t miss the Bell Tower with its 1.5 tonne bell and the bronze statue of Shakyamuni Buddha.
10. Get Some History Lessons at Can Tho Museum
Due to its location, Can Tho is blessed with a colourful past. You can learn about the history of Can Tho over the two levels of the Can Tho Museum. Aside from the usual arts and crafts, you will also learn about the different influences from the Vietnamese, the Chinese, and the Khmer that make Can Tho what it is today. Unfortunately, all the signs are in Vietnamese. Please make sure to contact the museum in advance to arrange for an English-speaking guide.
There’s so much to see in the largest city in Mekong Delta Region, but it hasn’t received the attention it deserves because the lack of access. But it’s all going to change soon, as AirAsia has made history as the first airline to offer a direct international flight from Kuala Lumpur to Can Tho. Services between Bangkok and Can Tho are also set to commence later this year.
So what are you waiting for? Be the first among your friends to visit the heart of the Mekong Delta Region. AirAsia flies from Kuala Lumpur to Can Tho 4 times a week. Book your seats now at airasia.com
PHOTOGRAPHY: Chew Win Win