Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam is a vast maze of rivers, swamps, and islands, home to floating markets, Khmer pagodas, and villages surrounded by rice paddies. Boats are the main means of transportation, and tours of the region often start in nearby Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) or Can Tho, a bustling town in the heart of the delta.

The Mekong Delta is considered “the rice bowl of Vietnam”. It yields a large amount of fresh produce for the country. During the trip to this region, you will see flourishing agricultural trade at the famous Cai Rang Floating Market (See the featured image).

Mekong Delta and the Cai Rang floating market

Cai Rang floating market is the place to go if you want to immerse your senses in the sights, sounds, colorful lifestyle, and taste of the Mekong river. A trip to Vietnam would not be complete without a trip to the Mekong Delta. This is iconic Vietnam… flat fields of rice fields as far as the eye can see, wooden houses on stilts located along the river’s edge, men and women in small boats, selling their produce.

If you visit the Cai Rang floating market, you will be amazed by how crowded and lively it is. During the early morning market hours, many larger-sized boats anchor and create lanes that smaller boats weave in and out of. The waterway becomes a maze of hundreds of boats packed with mango, bananas, papaya, pineapple, and even smuggled goods like cigarettes. 

Cai Rang Floating Market is open all day but it is busiest from sunrise to about 9 am. The main items sold there are farm products and specialties of Cai Rang Town, Chau Thanh District, and neighboring areas. Every boat has a long upright pole at its bow on which samples of the goods for sale are hung.

You can buy many well-known products here such as rice wine and snake wine – both of which are very strong! Rice wine is an alcoholic beverage fermented and distilled from rice, traditionally consumed in East Asia, Southeast Asia, and South Asia.

Rice wine is made by the fermentation of rice starch that has been converted to sugars. Microbes are the source of enzymes that convert starches to sugar. Snake wine is an alcoholic beverage produced by infusing whole snakes in rice wine or grain alcohol.

I also recommend trying the deep-fried elephant-ear fish in the Mekong Delta. It is crispy on the outside and tender inside. It is delicious and healthy, Deep-fried Elephant-ear Fish is one of the most famous specialty foods of the Mekong Delta. Giant gourami is a kind of freshwater fish weighing 0.5 – 1.5 kg. it lives in ponds and swamps. The Vietnamese call it Elephant-ear fish because it looks like one.

The interesting thing about Deep-fried Elephant-ear Fish is that the cook doesn’t remove the fish scales and fins. The cook must be patient, skillful, and experienced enough to fry the whole fish in a big pan at a high temperature. Oil should cover the fish and be hot enough to make sure the fish scales and fins still remain and become crispy. The fish is often served with transparent rice paper, greenery, cucumber, etc. You then create your own rolls and dip them into chili sauce. It is truly delectable and a must-try. Snakehead fish and many other kinds of fish can be eaten in a similar way.

Many towns in Vietnam have a fish market. Vung Tau, for example, has a series of fresh fish and sea animals to choose from. You pick whatever you want (muscles, oysters, shrimp, etc) and it is barbecued for you. You then order beer and have yourself a feast!

For more information, please check out my CV or visit the Can Tho website

Author: Piers Midwinter
I am an artist and teacher. I live and work in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam.