Can Tho bus station is only 1km outside the town centre yet we arrived from Chau Doc (3 hours for $5 via Long Xuyen) on a bus with no other passengers that went to another bus station some 6km from the centre. From here we took a Xe Loi (motorbike with trailor) back to the town centre.
Accommodation in Can Tho
We made our way to the Hoa Binh Hotel which was very run down with unfriendly staff and heavily overpriced at $30 a night. Our Xe Loi driver then took us to Hotel Restaurant 31 where the really friendy owner gave us a huge room on the top floor for just $10. This also proved to be a popular spot for locals in the evening with the restaurant always full and plenty beer drinking going on late into the night. Unusual specialities on the menu include snake and frog which you can select from the glass cabinet next to the reception.
The Ninh Kieu Hotel is right on the river and is a great deal at $25 a night. The Golf Hotel also looks very attractive as does the upmarket Victoria Can Tho Hotel across the river which has a regular shuttle boat service back and to across the river. A great choice if you’re not on a budget is to stay at this hotel and their other one in Chau Doc and they’ll provide a boat transfer between them.
There’s no shortage of accommodation in this very pleasant and seemingly wealthy town. Strangely nobody hassles you to buy anything as you wander along the waterfront which adds to its appeal.
Eating & Drinking in Can Tho
I’d certainly recommend the Hotel Restaurant 31 for good local dishes in the company of plenty locals. Down on the main stretch overlooking the river there’s a good selection of bars and restaurants. The Mekong Bar was a good spot from which to watch the world go by with a beer and some Vietnamese spring rolls.
The Nam Bo Restaurant is a superb place for an evening meal. Get a table on the terrace of this converted French villa and choose from a great selection of local and French dishes as well as plenty other western options. Had a great steak and chips for $3.50.
Boat Trip to the Floating Markets
Can Tho is the best place to see real floating markets and get amongst them. By staying here you can be on the river before first light and visit these markets before the tour groups from HCMC arrive destroying the authenticity of the moment. It’s a really fabulous experience and one of our highlights of Vietnam.
We met our boat driver at 5.30am at the hotel then walked in the dark down to his longtail boat at the riverside. The town was already busy as we set off and the sun was rising as we headed for the first of the floating markets at Cai Rang. A handful of other tourists were also there meandering in and out of the merchants’ boats as they did their business.
Further down the river we arrived at the Phong Dien floating market which was even more fascinating as most of the crafts are rowing boats with only a few having motors. We were the only foreigners here and were able to float around the heart of the market amongst the traders.
We then headed off around various canals which was interesting for a while but soon became rather repetitive (“same, same, but different” as the locals say). The trip could easily be four or five hours long instead of the eight that it took. The longer the better was the idea. Lunch was certainly novel when the driver took us to his riverside house where his wife had prepared lovely food for us and we had a game of billiards with a glass of rice wine on his terrace. That was unexpected.
Can Tho was my favourite place in the Mekong Delta thanks to its laid back ambience, its friendly people, the absence of any sort of hassle from street sellers, the good bars and restaurants and this day excursion to see the floating markets really was the icing on the cake. If you’re only staying in two places between Ho Chi Minh City and Cambodia I’d suggest Can Tho and Chau Doc.