Introduction to Can Tho, Vietnam
Sited at the confluence of the Can Tho and Hau Giang rivers, CAN THO
is the delta's biggest city (pop. 1,900,000), a major trading centre and
transport interchange. However, abundant rice fields are never far away, and
boat trips along the canals and rivers, through memorable floating markets, are
undoubtedly Can Tho's star attraction. Broad Hoa Binh is the city's backbone,
and the site of the Ho Chi Minh Museum
(Tues, Thurs & Fri 8–11am &
2–4.30pm, Sat & Sun 8–11am & 7–9pm), where yet more photographs and army
ordnance are displayed. Can Tho was the last city to succumb to the North
Vietnamese Army, a day after the fall of Saigon, on May 1, 1975 – the date that
has come to represent the absolute reunification of the country. The recently
opened, impressive Can Tho Museum
, 1 Hoa Binh (Tues, Wed & Thurs 8–11am &
2–5pm, Sat & Sun 8–11am & 6.30–9pm), presents "the history of the resistance
against foreign aggression of Can Tho people", as well as local economic and
The city's central market swallows up the entire central segment of
waterfront Hai Ba Trung. North of the market on Hai Ba Trung, Ong Pagoda
is a prosperous place financed and built in the late nineteenth century by a
wealthy Chinese townsman, Huynh An Thai. Inside, a ruddy-faced Quan Cong
presides, flaunting Rio Carnival-style headgear. On his right is Than Tai, to
whom a string of families come on the first day of every month, asking, not
unreasonably, for money and good fortune.
Life On The Mekong
The Mekong Delta is divided into 9 provinces:
Long An, Tien Giang, Ben Tre, Dong Thap, An Giang, Vinh Long, Kien Giang, Hau
Giang and Minh Hai. The people in this region are made up of Vietnamese and some
people of Khmer, Chinese and Cham origin. This accounts for the variety of
religions that add to the cultural diversity of this area. Among the religions
practiced here are: Buddhism, Catholicism, Cao Dai, Hoa Hao and Islam.
The southwest region of Vietnam is known for the
vast rice fields and the huge plantations that make up the core of this region's
economy. The region is also known for the many miles of waterways criss-crossing
the land making this area both fertile and unique.
The majority of Vietnam's fruits come from the
many orchards of the Mekong Delta. On any given season, one can find a variety
of tropical fruits that are produced by farmers of this region in the markets of
Saigon, Hue, and Ha Noi. For many tropical fruits,
the season is very short because they cannot be picked green and they don't last
long in storage where they quickly loose their aroma. The greatest variety of
fruits is available during the raining season, from June to September in the
South. After they are picked, the fruits are
transported on small boats to floating markets where they are sold to wholesale
dealers. In the off-season, many orchards become flower nurseries to meet the
peak demand for flowers during the new year celebration in the big cities.
The orchards are divided by a myriad of small
irrigation canals with delicate bamboo bridges called "Cau Khi" or monkey
bridges crossing them.
Life On The River
The people living in the Mekong Delta make their
living as farmers and fishermen. Often, they live right on the edge of the
rivers or canals on various structures built from whatever materials found.
Consequently, the architecture along the delta varies from place to place.
Often, many homes have fisheries right under them.
Enterprising individuals build a cage like structure of bamboo beneath their
homes on these waterways to house fishes. As the fishes grew, they sell the
whole batch to processors from the city and start with new ones.
Life in the delta is tightly woven with its rivers
as daily activities and businesses are conducted on its banks. Markets, stores,
ship yards, repair shops are some of the more popular trades
Floating markets are held every morning from 5:00
to about 11:00. Phung Hiep market is the biggest since it is located at the
intersection of 7 major canals. It is also a photographer's delight because it
can be seen above from a bridge. Cai Rang and Phong Dien are two other notable
floating markets in the delta. Boats loaded with
produce from nearby orchards of the Mekong Delta converge to the floating
market. They carry mostly fruits but also coconuts, vegetables and fishes.
Buyers are local traders with bigger boats snapping
everything by the bushels and resell at local markets or to wholesale dealers
from big cities, often for a handsome profit. Large
floating markets are not complete without its floating restaurants, floating gas
stations and an occasional tour boat filled with tourists.
Another unique industry in this region is the
snake farm in the area of My Tho township. In 1977, Lt. Colonel Tran Van Duoc (Tu
Duoc), a reptile enthusiast, created Dong Nam Snake Farm. Initially created
strictly as a research site for medicinal uses of reptile venom, Dong Nam Snake
Farm today is the largest of its kind in Vietnam. The farm boasts 20 different
varieties of venomous snakes and is home to other species such as boas, turtles.
Cobras are often soaked along with herbs in large
flasks of whisky which can be bought in the snake market in Phung Hiep. This
potent drink reportedly will increase your libido as well as cure all sorts of
illnesses. Live snakes are also for sale in the market and are exported to other
Asian countries to be used as food and medicine. In
a typical snake full-course meal, the gallbladder is extracted from the
freshly-killed snake and together with some blood and whisky a drink is made.
The snake is then chopped off and cooked in various ways. Most tourists opt for
a curry stir-fried snake dish just for the thrill of it. General comments are
"too much bone and no taste!". More adventurous travelers have reported severe
stomach cramps after swallowing down the snake drink.