I love open-air markets. Boston’s Haymarket, for instance, is one of my favorite places in the whole city. Where else can I get (sometimes) fresh produce at ridiculously low prices?
As much as I go to markets, though, I hadn’t yet seen them all.
Cần Thơ, a city in southern Vietnam, is located on a bank of the Mekong River. There, my parents told me, was a famous floating market. Apparently early each morning, hundreds of Vietnamese venture out on boats in order to buy or sell produce.
Boats seem to be the thing around Cần Thơ. Or, at least, Cần Thơ tourism. Tons of tiny, natural canals branch off the river there. Tourists can hire small boats to traverse these canals, boats that are often propelled by hand.
We took a larger boat out to the floating market, however. It would be more comfortable, the tour guide told us. I was okay with that– since we had to wake up before dawn in order to make it to the market, a little more comfort was a-ok.
The sky was barely beginning to light up as we sailed down the river.
We reached the main marketplace just as the sun showed its face.
If we had arrived too late, I would have never known. The place was organized chaos. Dozens and dozens of boats putted along, covered in people and produce alike.
I’m sure there was a system to the madness. In addition to the numerous homes set up by the shore…
…it was clear that some had made themselves at home right in their boat.
Much of the produce was being sold wholesale to locals. Yet there were also many smaller boats catering to the large flow of tourists visiting the market. Several vessels approached our tour boat, yelling in Vietnamese about their fresh mangoes, delicious steamed buns, or excellent bananas. Some came equipped with hooks to latch onto the railings.
Often the boats were a family affair.
Heck, people had full-on floating kitchens set up.
So basically? It was
I love marketplaces on a normal day, and this was taking it to a whole new level. First of all, we were on a boat. Secondly, both food and produce were totally fresh. Thirdly, you didn’t have to shop– people came and brought their stuff to you, leaving you to just sit back and barter.
Well, sit back isn’t really the right way to put it.
My family has never been one to sit back, anyway.
So we might have went a little crazy on that boat. But why not? The whole place was a little crazy. Tanned men, sleeping in a hammock on a boat that is both their storefront and their home. Floating huts where fishermen’s wives beckon you to come and take a look at the day’s catch. Your favorite foods delivered to you fresh. All this as the sun is rising over the Mekong delta.
Thus, at the conclusion of our trip, my family ended up like this:
And we carried that bag halfway up Vietnam.