I was reluctant to leave the rural peacefulness in An Binh, however it was time to stop by Can Tho, the largest city in Mekong Delta with a bus journey of approximately 1.5 hours from Vinh Long.
Arriving at the city, I negotiated with the motor taxi driver determined not to be ripped off before jumping onto the pillion seat to be taken away to Nam Mon hotel which is slightly off the city centre.
Bryan, the owner of the hotel who is also a Singaporean greeted me and assisted me with my check-in. Immediately that travel wariness I always have when travelling alone magically disappeared and Singlish came pouring out of our mouths naturally. There is this nice comforting feeling meeting Singaporeans abroad especially places that are not well-frequent by fellow citizens. As much of my surprise to meet a Singaporean as his to find a Singaporean girl venturing to Can Tho alone for it is considered an off-beaten path.
Nam Mon Hotel is a basic hotel. I booked a room with windows, fairly comfortable queen-sized bed and toilet that comes with basic amenities, it was good enough to have some private moment and just to sleep in for a night. The doors can only be opened by designated keys and walls are not sound proofed at all.
When I was about to turn in at night, there was a guy who was talking loudly on the phone outside my door and I could hear someone from another room shouting out for him to keep his voice down. Then I had a little scare when the guy meddled with my door knob and attempted to come in, he thought it was his room until I began to make known this room is occupied before he apologised and walked away. I secretly thank that wise decision or rather common sense for locking the door from inside for my personal safety.
Can Tho speciality
Nem Nuong is one of the local delights of Can Tho and it was on the recommended list of food to eat at the front desk reception table. It was written that it consist of barbecue pork, vegetable and rice noodles. I immediately had an image of tasty bowl of rice noodles with special marinated barbecue pork with a few strand of vegetable thrown in for a more balance diet, little did I know I was in for a surprise.
Armed with little information and a hand-drawn map with general direction to a popular eatery, Nem Nuong Thanh Van that is frequent by the locals to try this dish. Not surprisingly, I got lost while hunting for this place and had to engage the help of friendly locals.
Upon entering the eatery, all I could manage was to point to ‘Nem Nuong’ on the menu and waited for my dinner to arrive. Looking around me, everyone speaks Vietnamese and I would like to think I blended in easily if not for my stunned and puzzled look when Nem Nuong was presented in front of me. It is not what I imagine it to be at all! It consist of barbecue pork with peanuts, rice noodles, generous serving of mint leaves, pickled radish and carrots, rice paper and special fish sauce for dipping.
The couple on the table beside me were amused by my facial expression and after starring at my dinner for a moment, I asked them how do I eat this speciality. Thankfully the guy speaks English and he patiently taught me how to wrap everything in sequence into the rice paper, drip it into the special sauce before eating. This is more like a DIY spring roll wrapping than a bowl of noodles, a mistake from my assumption.
Banh Xeo, a Vietnamese made crepe stuffed with shrimps, meat and bean sprout was something I did not want to miss eating so I did a takeaway from a random foodstall back to the hotel for supper in bed. Not sure if it was because of my half hour walk back into the hotel that has turn it cold but I was rather disappointed as I find the Banh Xeo too oily and soggy for my liking.
Floating Market Tour
Signed up for Signature Market Tour which Nam Mon hotel offered to their guest when I arrived. The next day I waited at the hotel lobby when the sky was still dark. There were suppose to be 3 of us however one was sick thus the other had to take care of the ill one which meant it was my lucky day because I got my own personal private tour at no additional cost at all!
Hopping on board a small sampan with my tour guide and boat man, we setted off to Phong Dien floating market which starts as early as 6 in the morning. The sky transformed from pitch darkness to twilight before the sun rise fully as my guide was pointing out interesting sights along the river bank.
Phong Dien floating market was bustling with life as people trade. Most of the boats were small in size, there was only few large boats operating on big motor engines that run on diesel and there was only a couple of tourist boats in sight. We were able to go up close and personal with other boats while my tour guide bought her breakfast from one of the boats.
Stopped by one of the eatery by the river bank to have my breakfast, chicken noodle soup. After realising how Vietnamese love to add beansprouts into their soups, my guide taught me this phrase “Toi Khong An Gia” which means no beansprouts so that I can stop picking beansprouts from my soup.
After breakfast, we moved on to the largest floating market in Mekong Delta, known as Cai Rang floating market. As this is the huge market, there are bigger boats here and it seems that buyers are buying in bulk to resell in other areas along Mekong Delta. The activities were lesser by the time we arrived, perhaps because it was time to call it a day and this looked more touristy than Phong Dien with many tourist boats.
Along the way, Mr. Boatman made me a grasshopper bracelet and 2 roses while my tour guide made me a lantern out of coconut leaves. Oh boy, they are really pampered me with beautiful handmade souvenirs. Mr Boatman even got me some freshly plucked flowers to go with them too.
We sailed past houses along Mekong Delta where I observed the peoples’ daily lives, watching ducklings swim freely in the river and women rowing their sampans selling items to households along Mekong Delta.
We went on land for a little nature walk along the neighbourhood to enjoy the beautiful view of large rice paddies fields for it is one of the most important source of income for the people in Mekong. I also visited a rice paper making factory and It was fascinating to watch how rice paper were made but I am not sure if I will still be that amuse if I am the one who had to keep doing these rice paper every day. Always refreshing for the curious mind.
As we made our way back, I savoured on a pineapple in complete Vietnamese style. Never had I ate pineapple while holding the stem. It is such a good idea because it keeps my dirty hands off the flesh and preventing me from dirtying my hands. Er… geddit?
It was a perfect way to start the morning, getting to know more about Mekong Delta. I had a good chat with my tour guide about her life and viewpoints. These are the people connection which made the experience that made the trip far more insightful and meaningful.
Accommodation: Nam Mon Hotel (4 Nguyễn Văn Linh, Hưng Lợi, Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ, Vietnam)
Food hunting:Nem nướng Thanh Vân @ 17Hòa Bình, Tân An, Ninh Kiều, Cần Thơ, Vietnam
Although I never quite explore the city fully I am contented with my food and market tour exploration. Have you ever visited Can Tho? What are the other food to eat, activities to do and things to see there?