If there is one thing that nearly everyone does in the Mekon Delta, it is to go on a tour of the floating markets. So, on our second full day in Can Tho, we set the alarm for the unheard of hour of 4:15 am. Yep, you read that right. 4:15 am. I don’t even get up at 4:15 a.m. for work, not sure why I was willing to do so for sightseeing…but in the end it was worth it.
We met our guide and jumped into a tiny, and unstable, boat and away we went. Initially, we were forced to wear bright orange life jackets. Seriously? Safety laws in Vietnam? Never fear, they came off shortly and never went back on again.
The first stop on our tour was a wholesale market. Basically, people with large boats buy fruits and veggies from the farmers and then deliver them to the floating market to sell. Each boat typically only sells one or two items: watermelons, coconuts, bananas, pineapples, pomelos, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, etc. Each boat has a tall bamboo pole at the front, with a piece or two of whatever they are selling dangling from the pole. Apparently, most of the buyers at this market take the produce they purchase to smaller markets elsewhere in the region for sale to the end user. So, each piece of produce is typically sold three times before being eaten (4 if bought by a restaurant).
Interestingly, most of the sellers live on their boats. So, there are smaller boats selling coffee, soup, etc. to the sellers.
Unfortunately, we got to the wholesale market a bit early. As in, the sun wasn’t even up yet early. As in, most of the boats hadn’t even made a sale yet early. So, our photos from the wholesale market aren’t great but we did get a shot or two when we passed it on the way home.
If you take a look at the above photo, you will see two eyes painted on the front of the boat. According to our guide, the Vietnamese believe these eyes help the boat see any obstructions or other boats in the water. Good thing too, as most of the boats did not have anything in the way of lights — our boat driver would occasionally shine a flashlight around.
The next stop was a rice noodle factory. We learned that the first step in making rice noodles is making round sheets of rice paper just like the kind we saw in Cambodia, but about twice the size. (Who knew? Well, Robert did, but I didn’t). Once the rice paper is dried, it is cut into noodles.
All well and good, but the best part about visiting a food factory is eating the results, right? And we did. We each had a bowl of hu tieu soup (pronounced something like o two) — basically rice noodles, pork, and veggies in a broth. It was really good.
Back in the boat we went, only to learn that our boat driver had made us grasshoppers out of leaves and a pineapple lollypop while we ate. The grasshoppers are really quite cool — thankfully our driver didn’t make us crowns like some of the other drivers did for their customers — I would have been mortified to wear a crown around. (I wonder if that is the idea….).
The pineapple was sweet and juicy, but there was no way the two of us could finish it. But we ate as much as we could to be polite only to learn that our guide had also bought us cakes made of rice and coconut. I’m beginning to think Asians think the only thing tourists do is eat…
Then it was off to a smaller market. Same concept, but this was more of a retail market rather than a wholesale market. We saw the same types of produce being sold, but from significantly smaller boats. Unfortunately, we got there a little bit late so many of the boats were already gone.
Then it was time to take the boat into a small canal where we stopped and took a short walk through the countryside. We saw a ton of different fruits growing, including pineapple, dragon fruit, coconuts, mango, and banana.
We also got to cross several rickety old bridges.
And I can’t forget the ducks. Aren’t they adorable? No doubt they will end up on someone’s dinner plate sooner rather than later — apparently duck is significantly cheaper than chicken here.