Nov 28-Dec 2, 2014
Exploring the Capital of the West, Can Tho (Vietnam)
GPS waypoint: 10°01'55.5"N 105°47'05.8"E
Location: Ninh Kieu District, Can Tho City (Province of Hau Giang), Vietnam
Extended Stop in Can Tho
From Chau Doc, we had to take lodging in Can Tho, still 30 kms away from the grand floating market of Phung Hiep - the confluence point of the 7 rivers of the Mekong Delta. But Can Tho is the capital of the West - big city. We found Can Tho interesting that we decided to stay a few more days and explore the city before heading out to Phung Hiep.
Hau Giang Hotel
Our stay in Can Tho was made more pleasant when top management of a big local hotel, Hau Giang Hotel, accepted my proposal to increase their online bookings in exchange for free rooms and breakfast. The hotel itself is located right in the heart of the tourist belt which made access much better. The hotel was well managed, clean and comfortable. Oftentimes, the hotel stay greatly influences how much you enjoy visiting a place. This is true for Hau Giang Hotel.
There were two floating markets in Can Tho - it's actually the main tourist draw. One is in Phong Dien Floating Market and the other one is Cai Rang Floating Market. Convinced that Phung Hiep offers the best floating market, Tuyen and I by-passed these 2 in favor of the further Phung Hiep, 30 kms away.
Ho Chi Minh
Like most of Vietnam, every city offers a veneration to the late Ho Chi Minh by way of monuments, banners, currency and posters. At the main park, a big monument of Ho Chi Minh overlooks everyone. At this level of increased exaltation with every passing year, I wouldn't be surprised if a hundred years later, this veiled dietification would spawn a scripture that he ascended into heaven seated at the right hand of you-know-who.
Walking around the city gives us a glimpse into its culture. As a river city, its way of life revolves around the bounty of the river system. The culture is defined by it. Food is cheap in Can Tho (unlike Chau Doc). There are many Russian tourists - this seems to be a growing trend in Vietnam. Like most of the West, people are friendly. All over Vietnam, construction and rebuilding is in full swing - Can Tho is not an exception. The city buzzes with all its construction activities.
The Lover - movie
Not exactly in Can Tho, but a few kilometers out is the setting for the 1992 romantic movie, The Lover. The movie is about an illicit affair between a young french girl and the son of a wealthy Chinese. In the movie, the young Chinese lover visits his father to ask permission to wed someone else. This scene was filmed on location at the actual house. It's a tourist attraction with tour guides offering a tour in different languages. Admission is donation based.
Hot Pot Rip-Off
What makes a visit memorable is also how you got ripped-off. In Can Tho, the default tourist restaurant for hot pot is Da Ly Hot Pot - hotel concierge will recommend that and internet food reviews will say the same thing. So Tuyen and I went there to sample it out. The first red flag was that the menu had no price on it. We ordered the 'small'. There was a lot of veggies that went with it. We didn't order drinks but they still served us 2 empty glasses with ice. When the bill came, it amounted to US$15 which was A LOT. They charged us for the ice even though we didn't ask for it, charged us for the wet napkins, although for a sit-down restaurant, it should be part of the course. In short, they nickel-and-dimed us for everything they could charge. The food wasn't even that great - the squid was small and the pork was boiled when it should have been roasted first. Well, you'd been warned!
As a general rule, when in a new place, I visit a yoga studio and offer to teach for free. I've done that in Saigon. I came upon Yoga Dance by Mai Chi, a studio just close to my hotel. Tuyen and I met the owner who took us to dinner as we all got acquainted. I taught a class the following day. It was a different experience for the attendees as they are used to yoga dance and not a workshop/vinyasa style of teaching. They wanted me to do more classes, but there was no more time left.
We are on our final leg exploring the West of Vietnam. On the surface, there isn't much to see except for all the rivers on the Mekong Delta. The main appeal of the West is in its culture - but a few days won't ravel it even for the curious. To fully appreciate the West and its way of lief, it would be best to grow roots...or at least stay longer to get a sense of all the subtleties.
- Saigon Red, bottled beer
- Pho noodle soup
- iced coffee
- motorbike ride, short distance
- laundry, picked-up and delivered (mobile: 0933.894.599)
- dragon fruit
- sugarcane juice
- Phong Dien Floating Market
- Cai Rang Floating Market
- Ninh Kieu Quay - tourist center by the river
- Hot Pot Alley - eat to your heart's content, Mau Than Street and Ly Tu Trong Street
- the tourist center is in Ninh Kieu Quay by the river. Try to get lodging near this area to avoid hiring a moto service
- unlike Cambodia, Vietnam establishments do not accept US dollars. Best to have Vietnamese Dong handy. Bring your passport when exchanging US dollars to VN Dong with banks
- What's good about Vietnam is that you can have your hotel make bus arrangements which includes hotel pick-up to bus terminal, main bus ride to destination and hotel drop-off at the destination in one payment - saves a lot of hassle and aggravation. The fee is only marginally lower if you do it on your own. From Chau Doc, VND 120,000/pax, 4 hours
- Vietnamese smokers will smoke in air-conditioned establishments, air-conditioned buses packed with people including women, children and babies. They also smoke inside hospitals with no smoking signs.
- Vietnam ranks almost the same as Thailand and Cambodia for cheap price. Laos, Myanmar and Malaysia cost more
- internet speed is generally fast and reliable but during important events like Tet holiday, election, etc., it slows down
- Vietnamese generally do not speak or understand much English. It will be a challenge.
- only Vietnamese Dong is accepted as legal tender (change your dollars into Dong)
- best to dress appropriately, not revealing too much skin (Saigon is an exception - the ladies there set the trend in very short shorts)
- remove your shoes when entering a home or place of worship
- ask first before taking someone's picture. If they say no, don't persist or offer money
- best to carry your hotel's business card with you when going out. You can just show it to the cab driver or XeOm driver if they don't understand English
- leave your valuables, passport, travel tickets, etc. with the hotel's safety deposit box
- when lying down, don't point your feet or the soles of your shoes to anyone or to a family altar
- carry only enough cash for your needs that day
- don't lose your temper in public - Vietnamese people are warm, generous and polite. They look down on people who lose their composure
- don't take pictures of military installations
- refrain from taking videos of minority people until permitted to do so
Nov 28-Dec 2, 2014
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