Tho, the Mekong's 'capital city'
from being the provincial city, Can Tho is also the unofficial
‘capital’ of the Mekong Delta. It’s a vigorous modern place
with some good hotels and restaurants, but not much else.
However, it’s a useful centre for visiting the Cai Rang
and Phung Hiep floating markets
and cruising the labyrinth of the Mekong’s channels and
small settlement in the 18th century, Can Tho expanded rapidly
during the French colonial period when rice-growing was introduced
to the Mekong. Now it has a population of a quarter of a million
people, making it Vietnam’s ninth largest city.
The city is located
on the bank of the Bassac River, about 170 km southwest of
Ho Chi Minh City. It’s an important industrial and farming
centre. Local manufacturing industries include shipbuilding,
rice processing, textiles, and farm machinery. Agricultural
goods include coconut oil and sugarcane.
It has good transport
links - the river, local roads and Vietnam's major north-south
highway, and a large airport serving most of the Mekong Delta.
Two major ports are located nearby. The upmarket Victoria
Hotel has a private fast motorboat connecting with Ho Chi
Minh City and Chau Doc.
a large pagoda built in 1946 in the style of Khmer Theravada
Buddhism. It looks impressive, but the interior is very disappointing.
Much better is
Chua Ong, a Chinese temple facing the river in the heart of
the city. It contains a large effigy of a red-faced General
Quan Cong wearing decidedly flamboyant headgear and other
statues. Outside, the waterfront cafés offer drinks, coffee
and a super view of the busy river carrying everything from
large container ships to tiny sampans.
the main wharf, a lively outdoor market sells a wide variety
of fruit and marine products - durian, mangoes, jackfruit,
melons, and many shellfish and ocean fish.
of Agronomy at Can Tho University houses Vietnam's largest
research centre on rice, one of the country's most important
In recent years,
a series of gardens have appeared alongside Can Tho land and
water routes. One of these, the 2.2 ha My Khanh Gardens, features
different species of fruit trees and flowers, birds, fish,
tortoises, snakes, crabs and shrimps. There are small rong
houses (ethnic minority communal dwellings) to provide visitors
with a place to rest for the night.
There are plenty
of opportunities to cruise the river. A 30km drive to Phung
Hiep, where a boat will take you to a nearby floating market.
Closer, but much more touristy, is Cai Rang floating market.
The best river-born
treat in Can Tho is a leisurely trip in a small sampan around
the myriad of channels running off the river, visiting gardens
and orchards on the way.