The magnificent Mekong Delta is one of the main draws of Vietnam’s Southern part. Boasting numerous rivers and canals, the Mekong Delta is home to bustling floating markets and riverside villages. One of the largest floating markets here is Cai Be Floating Market, a destination you must not miss if you ever have a chance to step foot on Vietnam.
- Location: Cai Be Town, Cai Be District, Tien Giang Province (120 kilometers from Ho Chi Minh City)
Opening hours: all day
I. History of Cai Be Floating Market
Cai Be, Cai Rang, Phung Hiep and Phong Dien Floating Market make the four largest and busiest markets in Mekong Delta. Cai Be market was said to originate from the early trading activities by residents from the Central of the country. They have founded the land and settled down here since the 17th century. However, some might argue that Cai Be was established during the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century.
II. How to Get to Cai Be Floating Market
Cai Be Floating Market is situated in the area where the Tien River meets the 3 provinces, Tien Giang, Vinh Long and Ben Tre. From Ho Chi Minh City, it will take you roughly 2 hours to travel by car to the wharf, followed by a one-hour boat ride. You will either buy a boat ticket (sharing a boat with other passengers) or rent a whole boat for your group. A two-hour trip ticket will cost from 40,000 VND to 80,000 VND, but if you rent a whole boat it can be much more expensive (above 600,000 VND). It’s obviously a trade-off between privacy and cost.
However, you are advised to google for the large and reliable boat renters to avoid being scammed.
III. Best Time to Visit Cai Be Floating Market
Like most other floating markets in Vietnam, Cai Be “wakes up” in the very early morning. Though the busiest time lasts from 4am to 6am, you can find boats gathering since 3am. At sunrise, the market will be at its best, boasting its vibrant colors of fruits and vegetables, and the clattering sound of water, chatter and engines. If you seek an authentic experience in the south of Vietnam, getting up early is the only choice. There will be absolutely nothing left after 8am.
On the other hand, if hustle-bustle is not what you’re seeking, you can visit Cai Be in the afternoon. The burning tropical sun will hinder you from going out during 1pm-3pm, so it’s best to pay a visit to Cai Be at 4pm. The sunlight will be more gentle, and you will be able to gaze at the tranquil beauty of riverside villages. A good chill from the hectic pace of city life.
IV. What to See and Do in Cai Be Floating Market?
If you’re new to this country, a visit to a floating market is a must-try experience, as you will be able to grasp the typical lifestyle over water in Southern Vietnam. Cai Be Floating Market is no exception.
1. Witnessing well-placed piles of fruits and veggies on boat
The trading boats will gather from 3am for the wholesaling activities. The very first activities of the day is to transport fruits and vegetables from the mainland, and to rearrange them in an appealing way. You will see well-placed piles of fruits and vegetables of all sorts and colors. Each boat will specialize in a few types, which they will hang on a tall wooden pole, the symbol of southern floating markets. This pole is called a “beo” in Vietnamese, used to indicate what they sell on the boats.
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
Along with vegetables and fruits, you can also stuff your stomach with a hearty breakfast and drink here. Banh canh, Hu tieu, Banh xeo are the most exquisite and worth-trying cuisines in the neighborhood. Smoothies and coffee are also available for your preference. Eating and drinking might be a bit more difficult than usual due to the instability of the boat, which actually makes the experience more fun and memorable. It’s an art of living that the locals have well mastered: they eat, sleep, hang out and basically live their life on water. It’s their mobile houses and an inseparable part of their life.
>> Check Out Our Community Based Tour of Mekong Delta!
V. 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.
Cycling is also available. You can pedal on village paths to see the local farms and houses, or ride on narrow roads along small side canals. It’s a fun yet quiet experience and you will be able to see another aspect of the hectic Cai Be Floating Market.
VI. Tips on Visiting Cai Be Floating Market
There are quite a few things you should keep in mind before visiting 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’s also worth noting that the Cai Be Floating Market has become less crowded in the past few years. The development of inland construction including new roads and highways made it extra easier for traders to sell and purchase on land, resulting in a sharp decrease in waterway merchandise. The number of boats currently available for retailing only reaches upto 50 boats, while the other trading activities are done inland. However, a government’s plan is said to recover the livelihood of an once-bustling floating market of the area.
Cai Be Floating Market is one of the iconic markets you cannot miss in the Mekong Delta. Featuring lively colors and vibrant atmosphere, it’s loved by both locals and tourists alike. A visit to Cai Be won’t dare to disappoint!