VIETNAM TRAVEL

 

Mekong Delta

My Tho - Around My Tho - Ben tre - Around Ben Tre - Vinh Long - Tra Vinh - Around Tra Vinh - Sa Dec - Cao Lanh - Around Cao Lanh - Can Tho - Soc Trang Around Can Tho - Around Soc Trang - Bac Lieu - Around Bac lieu - Ca Mau - Around Ca Mau - Nam Can - Long Xuyen - Around Long Xuyen - Chau Doc - Around Chau Doc - Ba Chuc - Tuc Dup Hill - Ha Tien - Around Ha Tien
Hon Chong - Rach Gia - Phu Quoc Island

CAN THO

IDD code: ( + 84 ) 71 / pop 330,000
The largest city in the Mekong, Can Tho is a buzzing town with a lively waterfront and a colourful mix of narrow back streets and wide boulevards that make for some rewarding exploration - especially after a few days spent in the wilds. As the political, economic, cultural and transportation centre of the Mekong Delta, Can Tho hums with activity; while its access to nearby floating markets make it a major draw for tourists, who come here to boat along the myriad canals and rivers leading out of town.
Information
INTERNET ACCESS
Queen (9 Ð Chau Van Liem; per min 100d; 7am-11.30pm) This pleasant internet cafe serves sandwiches, ice cream and cocktails as well as speedy net access.
MEDICAL SERVICES
Hospital (Khoa Kham Benh; (Tell: 820 071; 4 Ð Chau Van Liem)
MONEY
Golf Hotel (2 Ð Hai Ba Trung) Has an ATM.
Sacombank (Tell: 810 519; fax 810 523; 13A Ð Phan Dinh Phung) Credit card advances can be done here.
Vietcombank (Ngan Hang Ngoai Thuong Viet Nam; (Tell: 820 445; fax 820 694; 7 ÐL Hoa Binh) Has foreign-curfency exchange and 24hr ATM,
POST
Post office (2 ÐL Hoa Binh)
TOURIST INFORMATION
Can Tho Tourist (Tell: 821852; fax 822 719; 20 Ð Hai Ba Trung; 7am-5pm & 6-8pm) Staff at this provincial tourism authority are pleasant and helpful; they can speak English and French. Decent city maps are available for 10,000d.
Vietnam Airlines (Tell: 824 088) Has a booking desk at the Can Tho Tourist office.
Sights
CAN THO MUSEUM
The enormous, well-presented Can Tho Museum (Tell: 813 890; 1 ÐL Hoa Binh; admission free; 8-11am & 2-5pm Tue-Thu; 8-11 am & 6.30-9pm Sat, Sun & holidays) has exhibits of the history of Can Tho resistance during foreign rule as well as displays on the culture and history of the province. There's a life-size pagoda and ample English signage.
MUNIRANGSYARAM PAGODA
The ornamentation of Munirangsyaram Pagoda (36 ÐL Hoa Binh) is typical of Khmer Hinayana Buddhist pagodas: it doesn't have any of the multiple Bodhisattvas and Taoist spirits common in Vietnamese Mahayana pagodas. In the upstairs sanctuary a 1.5m-high repre-sentation of Siddhartba Gautama, the historical Buddha, sits serenely under a Bodhi Tree.
Built in 1946. The Mumrangsyaram Pagoda serves the Khmer community of Can Tho, which numbers about 2000.
CANTONESE CONGREGATION PAGODA
Occupying a splendid location facing the Can Tho River, this small Chinese pagoda (Quan Cong Hoi Quan; Ð Hai Ba Trung) was built by the Can tonese Congregation. The original one was constructed on a different site about 70 years ago. The current pagoda was built with funds donated by overseas Chinese more recently. Can Tho used to have a large ethnic-Chinese population, but most of them fled after the anti-Chinese persecutions (1978-79).
CENTRAL MARKET
Many local farmers and wholesalers arrive at this market (Ð Hai Ba Trung) by boat to buy and Sell. The fruit section, near the intersection of Ð Hai Ba Trung and Ð Ngo Quyen, is par ticularly colourful and stays open until late evening.
MILITARY MUSEUM
Devoted to all things militaristic, this museum (6 ÐL Hoa Binh; admission free;
8-11 am & 2-4.30pm Tue, Thu & Fri, 8-11am & 7-9pm Sat) has the usual assort-ment of American War weaponry and Ho Chi Minh portraits. Missiles and a fighter aircraft sit on the front lawn.
Can Tho for Children
CAN THO WATER PARK
For a bit of glorious chlorinaled fun, try the Can Tho Water Park (Tell: 763 343; Cai Khe Ward; water park/pool only 40,000/25,000d; 9am-6pm). Among the attractions are water slides and a wave pool Children under 1m tall are admitted free.
Tours
The highlight of visiting Can Tho is taking a boat ride through the canals to a floating market The cost is around 50,000d per hour for a small boat, which can carry two or three pas sengers. For boat operators (mostly women). just wander by the riverside near the market, You can also book through Can Tho Tourist, but this leaves little room for negotiation.
Larger motorboats can go further afield and it's worth hiring one to make a tour of the Mekong River itself. Check the going rates at Can Tho Tourist then see what's on offer at the pier by the Ninh Kieu Hotel (see right). Prices range from 150,000d for a three-hout tour to 250,000d for a five-hour tour. Negotiation is the name of the game.
For more on the area's floating markets.
Sleeping
Can Tho boasts the best range of accommodation in the Mekong Delta.
BUDGET
Phong Nha Hotel (Tell: 821615; 75 Ð Chau Van Liem, r with fan/air-con from 60,000/120,000d; It's cheap and basic here, with slatted wood doors and a low-key, family atmosphere. Bathrooms could be cleaner, and it's on a noisy street with many motorbikes.
Hien Guesthouse (118/10 Ð Phan Dinh Phung; r with fan/air-con US$5/8; A favourite of budget travellers, this friendly, family-run guesthouse is tucked down a narrow alley near the city centre. Small, clean rooms come with floor-level mattresses in the older half of the building.
Hien Guesthouse II (106/3 Ð Phan Dinh Phung; r with fan/air-con USS5/9; A newer annex, this place has slightly better rooms and there's a shared terrace. Dependable motorbikes are available for around US$5 a day.
Hotel-Restaurant 31 (Tell: 825 287; 310 Ngo Duc Ke; s/d with fan USS5/8, r with air-con US$10; Popular with backpackers, this clean hotel has a mix of rooms; the worst are small and cramped; the best (like No 301) are spacious and airy. The restaurant serves good meals (mains 30,000d to 40,000d).
Huy Hoang Hotel (Tell: 825 833; 35 Ð Ngo Due Ke; r with fan/aif-con from 80,000/120,000d;This cheapie, bare-bones option has rooms with little or no ventilation, though there are hot-water bathrooms, and the place is clean. Huy Hoang is centrally located and there s a common balcony.
Xuan Mai II Hotel (Tell: 832 578; 17 Ð Dien Bien Phu; r US$6-12; A good-value option, this new hotel has spotless rooms with big windows and kind service. The best rooms have bathtubs.
Phuong Hang Hotel (Tell: 814 978; 41 Ð Ngo Duc Ke; r120,000d; This small minihotel has clean quarters with intricately tiled floors. Front rooms have big windows.
Sao Mai Hotel (Tell: 764 082; fax 764 083; 65 Ð A1, Cai Khe ward; r 150,000-250,000d; Near the central market, this is one of many new hotels in the neighbourhood. Sao Mai has clean, spacious rooms that are a good value.
Xuan Mai Hotel (Tell: 811 931; 94 Đ Nguyen An Ninh, r US$12-15;This friendly new hotel has excellent rooms with polished wood furniture and high ceilings. There's a lift.
Phuong Nam Hotel (Tell/fax: 763 949; 118/9/39 Tran Van Kheo; r USS13-22; Southeast of the main market, this new seven-storey hotel has clean rooms with big bathrooms and wireless access. It's a bit out of the way but it's better value than most waterfront options.
MIDRANGE
Doan 30 Can Tho Hotel (Tell: 823 623; fax 811140; 80A Ð Nguyen Trai;r US$10-25; At the northern end of town on the riverbank, this army-owned place has a dingy lobby, but decent rooms. Some have balconies and river views, as well as huge bathrooms. Rates include a simple breakfast There's a lift and an outdoor cafe.
My Khanh Tourism Village ( 335 Ð to Vong Cung, Phong Dien District; r US$15-35; Located 12km southwest of Can Tho, this small, lushly landscaped complex has freestanding wood bungalows with attractive furnishings. There's a pool, a decent restaurant, and you can book boating and other excursions.
Cuu Long Hotel (52 Ð Quang Trung; r US$16-30; Rooms at this large hotel are generally Sight, airy and a bit quieter than those in the centre. Unfortunately, economy rooms are dingy and can't be recommended. Breakfast included. There's a lift.
Phuong Dong Hotel ( 62 Ð 30 Thang 4; r US$19-30; A newish place with fair, carpeted rooms (some lack windows) that have modern bathrooms. There's a lift and a business centre.
Hoa Binh Hotel ( 5 ÐL Hoa Binh; r USS20-30, ste US$45; Rooms have carpeting, IDD phones, wi-fi access and satellite TV. With its elegant wood furniture, it's one of me better deals for this price range, though cheaper rooms lack windows. Breakfast included.
Asia Hotel (Khach San A Chau; ( 91 Ð Chau Van Liem; r US$20-32; A nicely maintained place with spotless rooms. Deluxe rooms have large balconies; rates include breakfast.
Tay Do Hotel (Tell: 827 009; 61 Ð Chau Van Liem; rUS$25-30; Set with a sparkling lobby and abundant amenities (including a sauna and massage services), the Tay Do offers comfortable, carpeted rooms, (deluxe rooms have balconies). Breakfast is included.
Ninh Kieu Hotel ( 2 Ð Hai Ba Trung; r new wing US$40-80, old wing USS25-30; This hotel belongs to the army and occupies a terrific location on the riverfront. Rooms in the new wing are carpeted and have balconies. Old-wing rooms are clean but dated, featuring green colour schemes.
Saigon-Can Tho Hotel (55 Ð Phan Dinh Phung; s US$38-50, d US$49-62; You'll find abundant amenities and a fair selection of carpeted rooms at this three-star place - though only the upper-tier rooms have a window to the outside! Ail rooms have bathtubs and DSL access, and there's a restaurant, massage service, sauna and karaoke. Rates include breakfast.
TOP END
Golf Hotel Can Tho ( 2 Ð Hai Ba Trung; rUS$60-149, ste US$ 185-200). The enormous riverside Golf Hotel is near the Ninh Kieu pier. Tastefully decorated rooms boast incredible views from the upper-floor balconies. Hotel facilities include a health club and a beauty salon; breakfast included.
Victoria Can Tho Hotel (Tell: 810111; Cai Khe Ward;r US$161-282). This lovely place sits right on the riverfront and is Can Tho's creme de la areme. Lavish rooms have garden or river views and guests have access to the fine restaurant, open-air bar, tennis courts and swimming pool. Nonguests can use the facilities as long as they order something at the restaurant.
Eating & Drinking
Along the Can Tho River waterfront there are several cafe-restaurants, most serving Mekong specialities such as fish, frog and turtle, as well as standard backpacker fare.
Other popular eateries line the riverfront strip, across from the giant metallic Uncle Ho statue.
Quan Corn 16 (Tell: 827 326; 77 Ð Vo Van Tan; mains 15,000;breakfast, lunch & dinner) A very popular traditional eatery serving tasty, inexpensive bites.
Restaurant Alley (Ð Nam Ky Khoi Nghia; mains around 15,000d) This is a good spot to escape the tourist scene on the riverfront. Situated in an alley between Ð Dien Bien Phu and Ð Phan Dinh Phung, there are about a dozen local restaurants scattered on both sides of the street.
Mekong (Tell: 821646; 380 Hai Ba Trung; main;15,000-25,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Mekong is always packed, for good reason: good Vietnamese food at reasonable prices.
Thien Hoa (26 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains 15,000 25,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) The speciality of the house are delicious Hue-style spring rolls (dac biet cha gio re).
Phuong Nam (48 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains 25,000d;breakfast, lunch & dinner) As with Mekong, Phuong Nam is a delicious deal.
Nam Bo ( 50 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains 25,000-50,000d; lunch & dinner) Housed in a thoughtfully restored, classic French villa, Nam Bo offers excellent European and Vietnamese cuisine in a delightful atmosphere. The view of the local fruit market from the 2nd-storey terrace can't be beaten.
Cappuccino (Tell: 825 296; 2 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains 35,000-70,000d; lunch & dinner) Fora break from pho, head to this popular Italian restaurant near the riverfront. You'll find a decent selection of pizzas and pastas and delivery is available.
Thanh Thuy Christian ( 149 Ð 30 Thang 4; mains 40,000-50,000d;This goat-meat speciality restaurant serves tasty curried goat; or if you're feeling adventurous, try the goat-scrotum hotpot. The restaurant is a few kilometres out of town, just beyond the local university. Look tor the sign on your left, just beyond the junction with Ð Tran Hoang Na.
Du Thuyen (Tell: 810 841; Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains 40,000-75,000d) For a unique dining experience, climb aboard this three-level wooden ship, where you can enjoy the usual standards while floating along the river. Du Thuyen typically sails from 8pm to 9.30pm.
Hoa Su (Cai Khe Ward; mains 40,000-85,000d; breakfast, lunch & dinner) Overlooking the water. this popular eatery serves seafood and other favourites, to great river views. It's near Victoria Hotel.
So Hom (50 Ð Hai Ba Trung; mains 45,009 70,000d; 8am-midnight) Inside the former market, this sleek and attractive spot serves a variety of Vietnamese and fusion dishes (shrimp with mango, papaya salad, vegetable tandoori) and the riverside setting is Can Tho's most idyllic spot for a meal or a drink.
THE FRUITS OF VIETNAM
One of the great rewards of travelling through the Mekong is sampling the extraordinary array of fruits available at markets, orchards and street stalls all over the region. A handful of fruits worth seeking include the following:
Buoi (pomelo) - this gargantuan grapefruit has thick skin and sweeter, less acidic fruit than ordinary grapefruit.
Chom Chom (rambutan) tiny fiery red fluit with hairy skin, and tender sweet white flesh. Most prevalent during the rainy season (May to October).
Ðu Du (papaya) - Vietnam boasts 45 species of papaya; it's great in juices or raw when ripe (orange to red flesh), and used in tangy salads when green.
Dua (pineapple) - another common Mekong fruit, some aren't so sweet. Locals sometimes doctor them up with salt and red chilli powder.
Khe (starfruit) - a five-pointed, shiny skinned fruit that is intensely juicy.
Mang Cau (custard apple) - inside this fruit's bumpy green skin lie black pips surrounded by white flesh - which indeed taste very much like custard.
Mang Cut (mangosteen) - violet, tennis-ball-sized fruit. Cut open to reveal white sour-sweet flesh. Kind of like durian for beginners.
Mit (jackfruit) - giant, blimp-shaped fruit containing chewy yellow segments. It's loaded with vitamins.
Nhan (longan) - this tiny fruit has light brown skin, a translucent juicy white pulp and is used for many purposes in the Mekong (it's even dried and used for kindling).
Oi (guava) -green, edible skin with pink flesh, the guava is loaded with vitamins and is great raw or in juice.
Sau Rieng (durian) - with a memorable odour, this huge spiky fruit has creamy rich interior of a taste somewhat resembling custard; you'll either love it or hate it.
Thanh Long (dragon fruit) - unusual in appearance, dragon fruit is a large red fruit with spiky fronds tipped with green. It has a mild, crisp flesh with numerous edible seeds.
Trai Vai (lychee) - very common, this small, round red spiky fruit has a white fleshy inside, which is particularly sweet.
Xoai (mango) - mangos come in several varieties; the sweetest are large round ones with bright yellow skin. Connoisseurs say the best come from Cao Lanh .
Vu Sua (star apple) - a round, smooth trust that produces a sweet, milky juice (its name means milk from the breast).
Getting There & Away
BUS
There are buses leaving HCMC from Mien Tay bus station (about 65,000d, five hours). Express minibuses make the same trip in about the same time. The main bus station in Can Tho is about a kilometre north of town at the intersection of Ð Nguyen Trai and Ð Tran Phu. There is another short-haul bus depot about 300m south of the intersection of Ð 30 Thang 4 and Ð Mau Than, which is good for getting to Soc Trang and the Phung Hiep floating market.
CAR & MOTORBIKE
Whether you travel by car or motorbike, the ride from HCMC to Can Tho along Hwy 1 takes about four hours. There is one ferry crossing at Binh Minh (in Can Tho). The Can Tho ferry runs from 4am to 2am.
To get from ÐL Hoa Binh in Can Tho to the ferry crossing, go along Ð Nguyen Trai to the main bus station and turn right onto Ð Tran Phu.
Getting Around
XELOl
Unique to the Mekong Delta, these makeshift vehicles are the main form of transport around Can Tho. A xe loi is essentially a two-wheeled wagon attached to the rear of a motorbike, creating what resembles a motorised cyclo, but with four wheels touching the ground rather than two. Fares around town should be about 5000d per person (they can carry two, or sometimes more), a bit higher for trips to outlying areas.