During my travels in Vietnam, I explored the beauty of the riverside and village lifestyle of one of the most well-known and interesting floating markets in the Mekong Delta; the Cái Bè, or Cai Be floating market. A trip to the Mekong Delta would be incomplete without marveling at the enormous lush paddy fields, picking up and sampling fruit, and experiencing the water world. The Mekong Delta is known as the most fertile regions in Vietnam.
Cai Be Floating Market: A Special Site For Travelers
Standing out as one of the busiest and most prosperous markets in the Mekong Delta, Cai Be can include than 400 boats trading exchanges every day. My friend and I woke early (about 5 AM) with the hope of taking nice photos of the whole market at sunrise. Although the market was open till the late afternoon, for me, the best time to contemplate the scene at its true essence was around 5 AM to 6 AM. At that time, everything, from boats to sellers, was highly vivid and chaotic in front of your eyes.
If you travel in a group of 10 people or more, I highly recommend you go to Cai Be Pier and rent a big boat. You just spend from 500,000 Vietnam Dong (VND) to 800,000 VND (about $25 to $35 USD) as an average price for a round trip. When I made the trip with a friend, we went to Tan Phong Pier and rented a dinghy. The average price was around from 150,000 VND to 200,000 VND.
Life on the Mekong Delta
The first sight that drew our attention was the boats on the floating market are not only places to sell items, but also the shelters for families from many generations. When the first rays of the sun shone down, children woke up and left boats to go school in daytime, while parents prepared their own goods to sell. Although traders seemed to be in a rush, this did not mean that we could not see smiles on their faces. In general, the goods in Cai Be floating market were very colorful and diverse, such as poultry, cloth, furniture, seafood, fruits, flower and so on.
The area for selling fruits is especially frequently visited by many tourists and locals. It is not hard to find rambutans, durians, mangoes, watermelons, mangoes, guavas, or any fruit of your favorite with a very surprisingly price. Once I paid 100,000 VND (around $5 USD) to buy mangoes, and the vendor gave me a full box. We could sense their freshness and sweetness even before tasting.
Advertising Goods on the Floating Market
Advertisement here was also very unique. People tended to hang the samples of their goods from a stick on their boats to let others know what they sold. That’s why I rarely saw any invitation to buy something from traders, or aggressive “hawking.” However, sometimes, it wasn’t easy to determine what a boat was selling. The reason is that the boats in the market were scattered everywhere. My view was also hampered by other travelers, who visited here to take pictures of floating markets. The time of day will determine how busy the market is.
About 6 AM, the market looked like a floating city. We stopped by a small boat to eat breakfast and sip a cup of coffee. Along with selling items and goods, there were also many interesting floating bars, restaurants, and even shops here which could cater for travelers’ demand. My friend and I chose to enjoy a bowl of noodles at a reasonable cost. After that, we drank coffees and chatted to the locals to know more about their daily lives.
Where to Stay: An Binh Island
I strongly recommend you spend a night in an An Binh Island homestay, located in the center of the Mekong River. For me, it is a cool chance to immerse yourself in local lifestyle, enjoy a sampan ride, experience a bike ride along the canals, visit nurseries and the local market, engage in a cooking class, enjoy a folklore show, taste some famous types of local fruits, etc. in a family atmosphere. Hosts and locals here are very warm, friendly and considerate, which make Cai Be floating market become a breathtaking and meaningful destination for visitors from all over the world.
Cai Be is quite easily accessible from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon); about two hours away by car, or from My Tho, the capital of Tien Giang, about one hour away by car.. As mentioned above, you are able to rent a sampan to enjoy your cruise or ask a local to become your guide. Don’t forget to give him a generous tip after the journey ends.
I hope my experiences will be useful to you!
- Vietnam Tourism, vietnamtourism.com
Hello, I just found this article and would love to do exactly this trip. We are staying in Ho Chi Minh City, and thought we could take a public bus to Cai Be, leaving at 4 a.m. Then go to Tan Phong Pier as you did for a dinghy. Is this a good idea? Or should we find a guide who will take just two people in a small boat?
Thanks for the advice!
Hi Anne; glad you liked the article, and have a wonderful time on your trip! As a traveler, I sometimes like to go it alone, sometimes like to use the services of a guide and sometimes like to book tours. So I can’t make that decision for you. I’ve not used their services, so can’t personally endorse them, but I’d say check out VietFun Travel. Writer Hanh Nguyen works with them. Good luck, and have a great time. Let us know how it goes!