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Can Tho

Cần Thơ (Khmer: ព្រែកឬស្សី; Prek Russey) is the fourth largest city in Vietnam, and the largest city in the Mekong Delta. It is noted for its floating market, rice paper-making village, and picturesque rural canals.
It had a population of 1.2 million as of 2011, and is located on the south bank of the Hau River, a branch of the Mekong. In 2007, about 50 people died when Cần Thơ Bridge collapsed, causing Vietnam's worst engineering disaster. In 2011, Can Tho International Airport opened. The city is nicknamed the "western capital" (Tây Đô), and is located 169 kilometres (105 miles) from Ho Chi Minh City. Cần Thơ's climate is tropical and monsoonal with two seasons: rainy, from May to November; and dry, from December to April. Average annual humidity is 83%, rainfall 1,635 mm (64 in) and temperature 27 °C (81 °F).

Transportation
Cần Thơ is connected to the rest of the country by National Route 1A and Can Tho International Airport. The city's bridge which is now completed, is the longest cable-stayed bridge in Southeast Asia. The 6-lane Saigon–Cần Thơ Expressway is being built in parts[clarification needed] from Hồ Chí Minh City to Mỹ Tho. The hydrofoil express boat links this city with Ho Chi Minh City

As a regional hub, it is easy to get to Can Tho from cities in the Mekong Delta. There are bus operators from all big cities and minibuses from smaller ones. If you arrive from Cambodia, you will probably stop in Chau Duc and catch a bus to Can Tho here. There is also one bus line directly from Phnom Penh once a day. It is difficult, not to say impossible, to get in by car from Cambodia as a tourist. You should also check, if you want to enter Vietnam by bicycle or motorbike. A new airport services Can Tho. Currently flight destinations are limited, but as the city grows more destinations are planned


By Express Bus
Many operators serve Can Tho from cities in the Mekong Delta up to the center and north of Vietnam. You may have a short stop in Ho Chi Minh City. Most travelers arrive in Can Tho from Ho Chi Minh City.


From Ho Chi Minh City bus operators servicing Can Tho are leaving every one to two hours around the clock from the Western Bus Station (Bến Xe Miền Tây). Prices are US$4-7. Smaller more local buses from Saigon to Can Tho leave in the morning. There are three main operators servicing routes from Ho Chi Minh City as well as other destinations - "Thanh Buoi", "Phuong Trang" and "Mailinh". The big operators also have a departure point in the center of the city at Le Hong Phong street, from where shuttle buses will bring you to Bến Xe Miền Tây. You can take a taxi to Le Hong Phong street in district 10. Look out for the office of "Thanh Buoi" (white background logo with a flower), "Phuong Trang" (red signs) or "Mailinh" (all green) or go straight to Mien Tay bus station in district 6. The taxi from district 1 costs around US$15 in August 2013. With most operators you will get a small bottle of water included in your ticket price. Bigger buses offer AC, but also entertainment program of Vietnamese films and music shows, which are usually perceived as too loud for "Western ears".

Major Bus Operators
Thanh Buoi is providing the fastest service to Can Tho as the bus only stops for a 10 minutes on the way from Ho Chi Minh city. The ride takes about 3 hours. The company provides a small bun as a free snack and free water for customers. At the arrival in Can Tho shuttle buses bring you to your final destination inside the city. Have the address of your hotel ready. The shuttle buses are paid for as part of your ticket. Cost from HCMC (Mar. 2014): 125,000VND
Phuong Trang has the largest number of services to Can Tho daily. There is a stop for 30 minutes in the large Phuong Trang highway service and restaurant point. The ride takes 4 hours. The operator provides free water in the bus. In Can Tho a shuttle bus will bring you to your final destination, if you have the address of your hotel ready. This is included in the price of your ticket. Cost from HCMC (Apr. 2014): 125,000VND

By motorbike, car and taxi
By car, allow about 1.5 hours from Sóc Trăng, about 3 hours from Châu Đốc, about 3.5 hours from Rạch Giá, less than 4 hours from Ho Chi Minh City (169 km), about 6 hours from Cà Mau and about 1.5 hours from Long Xuyen. It is possible to rent a car for US$140-180 for a one-way trip (or return trip in the same day) for 2-3 passengers from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho. A driver is included in the price. In case you want to drive yourself, you should check well in advance about the conditions.
You might be slightly faster by motorbike than by car depending on your way of driving. It is quite easy to rent a motorbike in the tourist area in Ho Chi Minh City district 1. Most rental stores will rent a motorbike to you, if you can show a driving license of any country or will even not ask for a license at all. Beware that you are only covered by your insurance in case of an accident, if your driving license is valid in Vietnam. Most European licenses are not automatically accepted. You might need to take an additional test with Vietnamese authorities in order to comply with the local rules.
It is also possible to rent a taxi for about almost the same price as a car for 1 way from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho. Try hiring a Vinasun Taxi or Mailinh taxi.

By boat
Apart from overnight boat cruises for tourists, there are not anymore regular boat transportation services to Can Tho. This is due to the fact that the time for driving to Can Tho has been reduced to less than 4 hours with the opening of the Can Tho bridge in 2011 and the finalization of the motorway around HCMC.

By air
Trà Nóc Airport now has a vast international terminal with convenient facilities. As of 2011, the airport is connected to Hanoi, Phu Quoc with flights on Vietnam Airlines and Con Dao with flights on Mekong Air.

Get around

Can Tho is a big city, but the center between the university and the quay can be easily explored on foot (đi bộ). Good hotels will offer you a map.

By bicycle and motorbike
It is easy to get around in Can Tho by motorbike or bicycle. Rental rates might be higher than in Saigon or some of the tourist hotspots in central Vietnam. This is probably due to the fact, that the number of international customers is much lower and the cost is higher. A 24 hour rental of an automatic motorbike will cost around 220.000 VND, older manual motorbikes might be substantially cheaper. Locals will usually not rent motorbikes or bicycles and it even is not so easy to find a rental shop where people speak English.
The bicycles available in Cantho are useful to get around, but beware that those bicycles are produced for the local population, who are on average smaller and lighter than Western tourists. These bicycles can break quickly and some local shops may be even hesitant to rent it out to you, because of constant repairs that are required. With the quality standard in mind, when you rent a bicycle, check that the brakes work for you!

By taxi
Mailinh and Happy Taxi are the two main taxi operators of the city. The frequency of taxi cars is much lower than in Saigon as there are less big companies using the taxi fleet in Can Tho. Only a few drivers speak English. Best is to ask your hotel to call a taxi for you and ask them to tell the destination to the driver.

On the river
There are ferries to surrounding areas available from two stations at Ninh Kieu quay. If you want to travel on the river, you can rent a private boat at Ninh Kieu pier. Rates vary and depend on your negotiation skills. Refer to the paragraph about floating markets for more details.


See

Pagodas and Temples
  • Quang Duc Pagoda, Mau Than Street, one of the biggest and most active Buddhist Temples with monks living in the premises. Visitors are welcome at any time of the day. There are fewer people during the afternoon, when it is rather hot, but it gets very lively often in the evenings.
  • Buu Tri Pagoda, Mau Than Street, a newer temple in the city
  • The Khmer Pagoda of Munirangsyaram, Hoà Bình street

Churches
  • Tham Tướng Church on Mau Than Street, nice little church build by the French
  • Tin Lanh Baptist Church close to Can Tho University in Mau Than
  • Xuan Khanh Quarter
  • Tham Tướng Church
The Xuan Khanh quarter is the geological center of the city and part of the Ninh Kieu district. In the 18th century the quarter was originally named Tham Tướng after the general Tham Tướng who fought the Siamese troops in 1772 that were advancing from Ha Tien. As with so many places the name of the area was changed after the Vietnamese war to reflect the ideology of the new regime in power.

Mau Than Street is the central street of Xuan Khan and famous as the longest street in the Mekong Delta stretching over 30 kilometres. The street is named after the Tet Offensive during the Vietnam War, that was launched on the Vietnamese New Year on January 30, 1968 by forces of the People's Army of Vietnam against South Vietnam. In Vietnamese, the offensive is called Tết Mậu Thân (Tet, year of the monkey). So in fact "Mau Than" actually means "year of the monkey" [2]. Xuan Khanh Market at the beginning of the street is a daily stop for many citizens who get their food and other supplies here. Mau Than is also center for the local community as there are two churches and the Quang Duc Pagoda in just a few hundred metres distance. Depending on the day of your visit you may see many traditionally dressed monks and Buddhist citizens or a celebration service of one of the churches that often reach into the street in the evening (usually between 6pm and 8.30pm).

Xuan Khanh Student Quarter: Many students from the nearby Can Tho University live in Xuan Khanh or do their daily shopping in one of the local shops. There are small eateries in the street and alleys as well as cafe's catering for the growing student population. As this quarter is less frequented by tourists, visiting Xuan Khanh you will find more local experience than in the upmarket Ninh Kieu pier. The best time to visit is in the afternoon and early evening. After visiting one of the churches or a temple, you could eat out in one of the street restaurants if you are up for an experience like a local student. There is also a famous alley with a dozen of hot pot restaurants here dubbed by locals Hot Pot Alley or in Vietnamese Hẻm Vit Nau Chao (refer to food section for more info). In the small streets and alleys coming from Mau Than you often find low budget snack bars or restaurants. In Nguyen Cu Trinh Street (side street of Mau Than) for example you can eat fresh mussels and sit on those plastic chairs they set up quickly and serve customers in the evening. If you dare also try one of the local sweets in the small corner alley at Hem 95 (Alley 95). After that you can visit one of the bars or cafes in Mau Than or relax on the roof top bar of the yellow mango colored Hotel Xoai, which means "Hotel Mango" as there used to be a mango orchard at this place.

Hai Bà Trưng area
Hai Bà Trưng street: This area is one of the main areas and attractions of Can Tho. Located directly at the Mekong river. It offers a park at the riverside with the Ho Chi Minh statue. There are plenty of hotels and restaurants around here and from here you can book boat trips, for example to the floating markets. Just look for some friendly tour guides, who speak english pretty well. They'll also help you make the tour of your choice which offers a greater experience than the standard tours offered by the tourist office. (also without paying commission).
Market at Cái Khế : there is a local daily market at Trần Văn Khéo street. Also you'll find the Can Tho water park here.


Local markets

  • Ninh Kieu Tourist Market
Cái Khế Market or the longer form Trung Tâm Thương Mại Cái Khế (Cái Khế Commercial Center) is a big market on Trần Văn Khéo street catering for businesses including restaurants and hotels as well as end consumers. The market stretches over two sides of the street, with the area facing the river offering products for daily use, fish and other fresh food products that arrive on the river. On the other side of the market, you will find many wholesalers for textiles and home products.

Xuan Khanh Market, is a market predominantly for fresh food, fish, vegetables and fruits. Other products for all daily needs are also available. It is located at the beginning of Mau Than Street. Many locals still use the name Tham Tuong Market, according to the old name of the area, but it is officially called Xuan Khanh Market now.
Ninh Kieu Pier Tourist Market, The main market of Can Tho used to be an open market located on Ninh Kiều pier. Today, the only original building left is the beautiful old market hall, now surrounded with a garden along the river. Now Cái Khế markets further upstream the Can Tho river and Xuan Khanh Market host the increasing activity.

  • Beautiful Views
There are many bridges with beautiful views.
Locals like to spend the evening at Nguyen Trai bridge, where a cool air is breezing from the river.
A nice spot with a picturesque view is Ho Xang Thoi, a small man-made pond surrounded by the typical "skinny" apartments that you see in Vietnam. Makes for a very nice photo during sunset.


Do

Can Tho is a place to experience the local life in a relaxed way. It is like a real life cultural experience and there are many things to do. While there are a couple of museums, they only open on special days and even expats living in the city may have never visited them or even heard of them. Traveling in the Mekong Delta is about experiencing the here and now and feeling the fast pacing change that is going on in Asia, where "the old" is constantly merging with "the new". The most famous activity in Can Tho in the morning is certainly the visit of the floating market, but there is much more to the city.

Floating Markets
Cai Rang floating market
The floating markets are a very lively scene, accommodating much of the goods exchange throughout the area. And, the canal system around Can Tho is a fascinating travel network, much more relaxing than the bustling roads. Longer tours on a private boat to the floating markets usually include traveling through the canals as well. Make sure the boat you book is a small boat that can take you through the small canals that the larger tour boats cannot navigate. You can rent a boat from the "boat ladies" at the Ninh Kiều pier or from local tour agents. Often they can pick you up at your hotel and the tour included some snacks. Prices depend on your negotiation skills and the longer the tour, the cheaper. On August 2013, starting prices of private boats to the floating markets are about 19$ for a 3 hour tour to Cai Rang floating market and about 39$ for a 7 hour tour to both markets - Cai Rang and Phong Dien - and canals. It could be bargained down and the price also depends on the quality and state of the boat. Make sure that the boat has a shade, so you do not sit in the sun for too long.

Cai Rang (Cái Răng) floating market is the main wholesale floating market near Can Tho. Go there early in the morning (as early as 5:30am), and come back through the small tributaries to Can Tho river; about 3-4 hours.

Phong Dien (Phong Điền) is further upstream the Can Tho river, and worth seeing as it is a retail market. It is very active at dawn, but slows down early too, so you may want to go there by land. The arroyos back to Can Tho are also very much worth a ride on a small boat.

Phung Hiep (Phụng Hiệp) is much farther away, in the neighboring Hậu Giang province, but deserves a trip if you are going to stay more than a few days, as it is always bustling with activity. There are cruises offered to this destination.

Tra On (Trà Ôn), in Vinh Long province, is just over an hour downstream the Bassac (the lower Mekong branch, also called Hậu Giang or Sông Hậu). It is a small floating village's market anchored near the clouds' island (Cù Lao Mây).

Floating Market Tours (moderate prices, friendly guides and reliable private boats operated by Mekong Official Tourism Information Bureau), Hai Bà Trưng, Ninh Kieu, Opposite Ho Chi Minh Statue