We arrived in Can Tho in the evening, following our Kampot- Can Tho overland border crossing travel day and easily found a reasonably priced taxi to our guesthouse, arriving around 730pm.
The guesthouse we had chosen was Thanh Ha Guesthouse or Ms Ha’s Guesthouse, as we had been recommended it by our new- found friend Marina, who we met when she was living at the Mondulkiri Elephant and Wildlife Sanctuary. The guesthouse was a little hard to find, down a small alleyway of just peoples’ homes, but Ms Ha had emailed with helpful instructions so it all went smoothly. Ms Ha was waiting with a fruit platter and a lemon iced tea for us on arrival, her English was excellent, and she was incredibly helpful and friendly. Before we had finished our pineapple, we had the next day arranged and paid for, including our breakfast choices and how we take our coffee. We were to be setting off at 5am, visiting the main, wholesale, floating market of Can Tho, Cai Rang, and then a smaller floating market, visiting also a rice noodle factory and cacao farm, as well as having lunch in a small village in the Mekong Delta. There was another couple staying with Ms Ha who were also going to be in our boat.
That evening, we felt that fruit was enough for dinner, having done absolutely nothing all day other than sit on a bus, so we retired to our bedroom for an early start the next day.
When the 430am alarm went off, I really questioned if this was going to be worth it! Everyone was already waiting downstairs, including our lovely guide, Win. We walked around 5 minutes to where our boat was waiting for us in the pitch black. For around 30-45 minutes we travelled in the dark to Cai Rang, the floating market and arrived around 6am just as the sun had come up. This market is a wholesale market, so the boats are quite large, and one boat generally sells one or two products only. They display their wares on the front mast of the boat! A really clever idea! There were also smaller boats with ladies selling hot noodles and coffee. We sailed up and down for a while, taking it all in, then proceeded to the smaller floating market Phon Dien to observe some haggling and trading of smaller items. After this we digressed from the main river, to the smaller tributaries, and villages of the Mekong Delta. Win told us about their way of life, we got off the boat and explored a village and had lunch in a local café. We also visited a cacao farm and saw chocolate made from the fruit to the cocoa! Lovely! They also had cacao wine for us to try which was delicious! The whole smell of the place – the bitter sweet cocoa just made me long for Cadburys or Lindt chocolate! (My favourites!).
By now it was around midday, so we started our journey down the Mekong back to the centre of Can Tho where we were staying. It took around an hour to get back to our jetty, which was only a 5-minute walk to the lovely Ms Ha’s guesthouse.
4 times in around 50 minutes, the rudder of the boat got caught on plastic bags floating in the now lower river (the tide had gone out and the water levels were a lot lower revealing gross amounts of plastic waste below the water line). Each time, the driver cut the engine, removed the plastic bag and threw them back in the river! It was so demoralising to see, as if even one or two boat drivers actually put them in a proper waste bin (n.b. we haven’t seen any rubbish bins here though), then there may be less plastic, and peoples’ journeys would be shorter! There was so much plastic waste in the Mekong, that it has made me consider how to try and reduce plastic waste back home, as well as in South East Asia, where we are making a profound effort to decline plastic bags and straws etc. Maybe I will consider using a milkman to reduce plastic milk bottles or encouraging people to buy tinned soups or make their own rather than buying a plastic lined unrecyclable cardboard ‘fresh soup’. Nonetheless, I will be certain to investigate and let you all know, when I get home. If anyone has any plastic- saving tips that they use, please let us know? Every little thing helps to save our planet earth, and we would love to do all we can.
That evening, we found a completely local spot, that served cheap and flipping delicious Nem Nuong with a to- die – for peanut dipping sauce: details of which can be found in our best of Vietnamese food post.
Can Tho was quick becoming our new favourite place(!) but alas, we were leaving the next day. After strolling around the night markets and along the river again, we were happy we had taken in all Can Tho could offer. Back at the guesthouse, the friendly, mother-like figure of Ms Ha, got me answering some emails for her in English and checking her spelling over another delicious Lemon Iced Tea. She sorted our bus to Saigon out for us and even gave detailed instructions on how to get the free shuttle bus from the bus station, and some useful phrases we may need to say! – the hospitality of the Vietnamese was already impressing us… and we were yet to see more of it and fall in love with this country even more.