Vietnam’s Southern region is renowned for the stunning Mekong Delta, which features a plethora of waterways, bustling floating markets, and riverside settlements. The Cai Be Floating Market is one of the largest and most popular of these markets, making it a must-see attraction when visiting Vietnam.
Cai Be Floating Market history
The four biggest and most active markets in the Mekong Delta are Cai Be, Cai Rang, Phung Hiep, and Phong Dien Floating Market. It’s believed that Cai Be market was created by inhabitants from the central region who migrated to the area and established it in the 17th century, but some argue that it was founded during the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century.
How to Get to Cai Be Floating Market?
Cai Be Floating Market is located at the point where the Tien River intersects with Tien Giang, Vinh Long and Ben Tre provinces. If you’re traveling from Ho Chi Minh City, it will take about 2 hours by car to reach the wharf, followed by a one-hour boat ride. You can either buy a ticket to share a boat with other passengers or rent an entire boat for your group. A two-hour ticket costs between 40,000 VND and 80,000 VND, but renting a whole boat can be much more expensive (over 600,000 VND). This is a choice between privacy and cost.
However, you are advised to google for the large and reliable boat renters to avoid being scammed.
The Best Time to Visit Cai Be Floating Market
Similar to other floating markets in Vietnam, Cai Be also becomes active very early in the morning. The busiest time is between 4am to 6am, but boats start gathering from as early as 3am. During sunrise, the market is at its prime displaying colorful fruits and vegetables, accompanied by the sounds of water, chatter, and engines. If you want an authentic experience in southern Vietnam, waking up early is a must because after 8am, there won’t be anything left.
Alternatively, if you’re not interested in a busy environment, you could explore Cai Be in the afternoon. Due to the scorching sun between 1 pm and 3 pm, it’s recommended to wait until 4 pm when the sunlight is less intense. This way, you can peacefully enjoy the serene scenery of riverside villages and take a break from the fast-paced city life.
What to See and Do in Cai Be Floating Market?
If you’re a newcomer to this country, it’s highly recommended that you visit a floating market as it will give you an insight into the usual way of life on water in Southern Vietnam. Cai Be Floating Market is one such market that shouldn’t be missed.
1. Witnessing well-placed piles of fruits and veggies on boat
The wholesale trading boats will convene at 3am to commence their daily operations. The initial chore involves ferrying fresh produce from the mainland and presenting them in an attractive manner. The floating market will exhibit an array of fruits and vegetables grouped in neat stacks, featuring a variety of colors and types. Each boat will specialize in a select few products, which they will display on a tall wooden pole known as a “beo” in Vietnamese, indicating what items are available for purchase on the vessel.
2. Mingling in the sound of trading activities
While some boats are equipped with modern engines, some might still use a pair of traditional paddles. That’s the best part of being here: mingling in the sound of water, paddles, engines and bargaining voices. Whenever you pass by a boat, the owners will eagerly invite you to make some purchases in a lovely accent. A small sample will always be granted to give you a taste of what they sell.
3. Fill your stomach with local food
You can enjoy a filling breakfast with fruits and vegetables, as well as local specialties like Banh canh, Hu tieu, and Banh xeo at this location. Smoothies and coffee cater to various tastes. Eating and drinking may be somewhat challenging due to the boat’s movement, but this adds excitement and creates lasting memories. The locals have perfected living on water, as they eat, sleep, socialize, and essentially live their lives on these floating homes, which are integral to their existence.
Other Activities Near Cai Be Floating Market
After shopping and touring around Cai Be, you can stop by one of the islands to further explore the southern lifestyles. You may choose to discover an ancient house with a huge garden of fruits, or check out the coconut sweets making village. You will have a chance to try making them on your own, and choose from various flavors to buy for your friends and loved ones.
Biking is an option too. You can cycle on rural trails to observe the nearby farms and houses, or ride on narrow roads that run alongside small canals. It’s an enjoyable but peaceful activity that allows you to witness a different side of the bustling Cai Be Floating Market.
Tips when visiting Cai Be floating market
There are several factors that you should consider before going to Cai Be Floating Market.
- The boat rides will be somewhat rough and shaky, especially the traditional ones. Make sure you’re not a seasick type.
- Put on enough sunscreens and insect repellant. Dress properly with light clothes, as it might get a bit cold early in the morning, and then very hot after 9 am. Bring along a hat.
- Double check the price and stopping points before you hop on any boat.
- Don’t forget to take photos of a huge Catholic cathedral on the riverside, which will look best on photos taken from afar.
It is important to mention that the Cai Be Floating Market has become less busy over the last few years. This is because new roads and highways have been built, making it easier for traders to sell and buy goods on land rather than on the waterway. As a result, there are now only around 50 boats available for retailing on the market while most trading happens on land. However, the government has a plan to revive the once-thriving floating market and improve the livelihoods of the people in the area.
Cai Be Floating Market is a must-visit market in Mekong Delta known for its lively and colorful atmosphere. It is loved by both locals and tourists alike, and you wouldn’t want to miss the experience of visiting it.