Destination Vietnam | Cai Rang Floating Market

Ho Chi Minh City is a great place to hang out, enjoy a variety of food, and party hard. However, sightseeing in the city itself is limited, at least compared to the northern city of Hanoi. My friend and I decided to head south to see one of the main attraction surrounding Ho Chi Minh City, the Cai Rang floating market, in the Lower Mekong River.

To get there from HCMC, you either go with a travel agency or by your own. If you’re planning a one-day trip, I strongly recommend the former. We went on our own for a one-day trip. Yes, I know the exact contrary of my recommendation.

Overall journey is the following:

I) Hotel to Mien Tay bus station
We woke up very early (5am) and took a taxi from our hotel to the Mien Tay bus station. Assuming you are staying in the Pham Ngu Lao area (backpacker zone), the drive is about 20 minutes and cost around 150k dong.

The reason we left so early is that the floating market is only open from 9am to 11am. Knowing that HCMC to Can Tho takes about 3 hours, we hoped by leaving early we could still see the end of the market.

II) Mien Tay bus station to Can Tho

At the station, look for the counter that sells tickets to Can Tho. Can Tho is the main city from where you take a boat to get to the Cai Rang floating market. Bus prices vary from 130k dong to 80k dong. The cheap option picks up and drops passengers along the way, whereas expensive bus goes supposedly straight to the destination. We took the cheaper option, left at 6am, and arrived at Can Tho around 9:20am. Can Tho to the boat station
South East Asian traveller will know the feeling — As soon as we arrived and alighted the bus, a bunch of taxi/motorbike driver chased us and asked where we were going. I said the boat station for the floating market – a scooter brought us there for 30k dong. The ride is a bit more than 5 minutes, and you get to see the city of Can Tho.

At the boat station, we paid 10 USD each (we might have get screwed) to get on a slow and small motor boat. 9:40am, we were on the Mekong River towards the Cai Rang floating market.


The journey lasts about an hour so be sure to bring water, as you most likely will get hit hard by the sun on the open air boat. The ride gives a chance to see the life around the river, with kids playing on the water, workers on docks, fisherman coming back or getting ready to work, and few other routine things. Overall it is not an amazing scenery, but still very much different from whatever you have at home. See for yourself.

Almost an hour after, we reached the market and as expected it was almost the end. There were only a few merchants left, but no more buyers, rather few tourists like us taking shots, and admiring.

It is a shame we arrived too late; we probably should have tried to sleep in Can Tho the night before to fully enjoy it. Regardless, it is still amazing to think the same way people go on markets on “land”, other take their boat and go to a floating market. Cai Rang floating market is a wholesale market, with mainly food consumptions products (fruits, vegetables, etc.) Keep in mind, there are plenty of floating markets in this area, so do some research before adventuring yourself. The best way to go about it is to sit in a travel agency to see in detail what each market offers, and then do a Google search on how to get to your destination by your own. It’s usually not only a cheaper option, but also allow you to do things at your pace.

The boat tour also includes a short visit to a small noodles factory, where you can see “live” the full process of production. I made a short video with no comments as it should be self-explanatory.

As you may know, Vietnam cuisine typically used rice noodles. It has a different texture and flavour to the more commonly known wheat noodle or Italian Pasta. The next time you eat an Asian broth, compare the noodles from a Pho Bo (Vietnamese broth) with noodles from a Ramen (Japanese broth). The difference is even visual as the texture and color are different. If you want to know more about it, here is a great article to check.

After coming back from the market, we were hanging around Can Tho nearby the boat station, but this part of the city doesn’t offer much except for few market and restaurants. Very hungry, we grabbed a bite at a local restaurant — as much as it looks delicious, it was just okay.

Lunch done, we went back to Can Tho bus station, and soon after we were on our way back to Saigon. We arrived at Mien Tay around 6pm and decided to take a bus back to our hotel. Bus 102 is direct to Ben Thanh bus station and cost 3k dong.


Later that night, we went to see a premiership game and then clubbing. Vietnamese folks know how to dance. The nightclub was touristic, but with plenty of locals. You could see it, when the dee-jay put some local songs, the crowd was going wild! I loved it!!

As anywhere in the world the night ended with some food. It is a kebab in Europe, Ba Ku Teh or Chicken rice in Singapore, Pizza slice in the United States, in Saigon, it was a mere omelet sandwich. Although no picture, I can guarantee you it was delicious!!

The day and the night have been good, tiring but good. The one-day trip to the Cai Rang floating market was exhausting, but since we only spend three days in the city it was needed. Of course, if you have more time make sure to sleep in Can Tho the night before and show up next morning as early as you can at the boat station. Tomorrow is our last day; we will chill and see what the city has to offer.

Travel Tip | Bus from/to Ho Chi Minh City Airport

Ho Chi Minh City Airport to the city:

When exiting the international airport terminal, turn on your right and look for the bus station. Get on the bus 152, fare from the airport to Pham Ngu Lao area is about 5000 dong as of November 2014. The ride is about 45 min to an hour with traffic.

There are many stops on the journey, but if you’re heading to the backpack area of Ho Chi Minh City, alight at the terminal (Ben Tan market). From there you can easily walk to the backpack area namely Pham Ngu Lao.

City to Ho Chi Minh City Airport:

Similarly to above, to get to the airport the cheapest way is to use the public transportation. From Pham Ngu Lao area, walk to the Ben Tan bus station find across the Ben Tan Market.

There take the bus 152 direction Tan Son Nhat, which is the name of the HCMC airport. The ride is about 30 minutes with no traffic, and the first bus is at 6am. For very early flight, taxi is a better option. The bus terminal is the international airport, the stop before is the domestic terminal.

Bon Voyage!

Travel Tip | Hanoi to Cat Ba Island by bus

From your Hanoi take a taxi (motorbike will be faster and cheaper) direction Luong Yen station in South East Hanoi. The ride should not cost more than 40k if you are departing from the Old Quarter.

At the train station, go to the counter on the left-hand side when facing the bus station. If you’re lost just ask around, most of the foreigners at this station head to Cat Ba Island anyway. Go to the Hoang Long counter and buy the ticket Hanoi-Haiphong-Cat Ba.

As of October 2014 the ticket cost 220k VND

You have two buses leaving Hanoi, the first at 7:20am and second at 11:20am. Arrived at the train station at least 30 min before. I was there during the shoulder season, but I can imagine that during the peak season, it is the first arrive the first serve.

The bus is clean with air conditioning, nothing fancy, but it does the job.

(1) We left 11:20am sharp from Hanoi. The scenery is not exceptional; it consists of many factories and businesses on the road. Time-to-time the bus pass through the city, thus you’ll be able to see a bit of the Vietnamese lifestyle. Bottom line is if you fall asleep, you don’t miss much.

(2) The bus arrived at 2:20pm at Haiphong. There we left the bus with our luggage and after 20 min waiting at the station we went on to another bus that headed to the Haiphong Boat station. At that stop you can buy some food and there is also a bathroom.

(3) From Haiphong boat station, we took the speedboat to Cat Ba boat station. The journey is about 30 to 45 min; Fyi better not having motion sickness.

(4) From Cat Ba boat station, a bus brought us to Cat Ba town the final destination. There you’re on your own but expect taxi drivers/hotel managers to chase you as soon as you get off from the bus to offers their respective services. The trip, all in all, takes about 4.5 hours.

Have a safe trip

Travel Tip | Transport from/to Hanoi Airport by bus

Those of you who will land in Hanoi, below is my few cents on the trip from the Airport to the city and vice-versa. 

Hanoi Nai Bai Airport to the Old quarter:

When you exit the international arrival gate, there are several taxis. Although all of them have a meter, they might still ask you up to 650k VND for a ride to the city. Keep in mind you can still negotiate, I negotiate a drive to the Old Quarter for 350k VND.

Another alternative and considerably cheaper is to take the local bus. At the international arrival gate, once you exit the airport, you will see taxis companies in front of you. Ignore them and take a right, and walk for maybe 150-200 meters until you find on your left-hand side the bus station. There are twos buses 7 and 17. Although both bring you in the city my preference goes to the 17 as it drops you at Long Bien bus station in the Old quarter or near enough for a short walk or drive by taxi.

For your reference, the local buses are in front of the Domestic arrival exit gate. You can’t miss it.

Old Quarter to Hanoi Nai Bai Airport:

Similarly, to get to the airport there are many taxi companies; the price can go as low as 250k VND. If flying very early some taxi offers pre-booking services.

Looking for a cheaper alternative, one where you can see a bit of Vietnamese life, go for the local bus. If you are staying nearby the Old quarter, walk or take a taxi to the Long Bien bus interchange (the ride should not cost more than 30k from the Old Quarter).

There wait for the bus 17, get on, and you are pretty much all set.

The Airport station is the terminus so you can just chill and enjoy the scenery.

The bus will drop you near the domestic arrival. While facing the airport take a right to get to the international arrival, from there take the stairs up to get to the departures zone. The ride last about an hour and 15 min — the ticket cost 9k VND (October ’14).