Floating markets are one of the most interesting type of markets in Viet Nam, popular at Mekong River Delta. Thousands of boats gather to form a place of economic activity. Trading activities take place all day, but the most exciting time is in the morning when boats arrive loaded up with agricultural products.
On a cho noi (floating market) all trade activities take place on boats. The largest cho noi include Phung Hiep, Nga Bay, Phong Dien (in Hau Giang), Cai Rang (in Can Tho) and Cai Be (in Tien Giang). Most of the agricultural productions sold in cho noi are for wholesalers, who then re-sell it to food processing factories or ship it to the north.
Southern Vietnam is the home to interlacing rivers, canals. Crowded boats and long-standing residents by rivers' banks have created a typical culture - floating market.
These floating markets have made contribution to cultural exchange, waterway economic development. Boats are used as offices, shops or houses which are one of reasons for open-mindedness of Southern people.
Southern floating markets have still kept their typical features of a center of agricultural products and local fruits. Goods delivery and receipt are seen as the most interesting activity at the markets and people throwing and catching goods are considered as artists with their performances on the rivers making peaceful countrysides bustling.
In the Southern, some floating markets are known as 100 year old ones: Cai Be (Tien Giang province), Cai Rang, Phong Dien, Phung Hiep (Can Tho) etc... These markets open very early in the morning when some are still sleeping and end in the late afternoon. Hundreds of small and large boats join the markets.
Unlike shops, the most typical feature of goods display is to hang what it offers. Customers can easily decide what and where to buy. Almost goods are found at this market but agricultural products, fruits, rice, dried shrimp etc...which are produced or delivered from surrounding areas are mainly offered. Floating markets also the biggest store for export products in the region.
Unlike floating markets in Thailand, floating markets in Vietnam are shaped naturally after long time of gathering. Thus, they are not markets only but bring with them features of traditional culture.
In the 15th century the first European came to the Mekong region. They came from Spain and Portugal to mount some missionary expeditions. In the 19th century, the French took interest in the zone, and took control of Saigon. In 1863 the French extended their control to Cambodia. In the 20th century the French invaded Laos, and established the French Indochina.
From 1946 through 1954 took place the First Indochina War. Ho Chi Minh led the resistance against the French. On July 21, 1954 the Geneva Conference divided the country of Vietnam in two. The north became North Vietnam, under Ho Chi Minh control, and the south become the Republic of Vietnam, under Ngo Dinh Diem.
The second Indochina war, the Vietnam War (in America) and the American War (in Vietnam), took place between 1957 and 1975. The war was fought in South Vietnam, and bordering areas of Cambodia and Laos.
In the South, the Republic of Vietnam's allies were the United States, South Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Philippines. The North Vietnam army, the Viet Cong, was military and financially supported by former USSR.
In 1973, U.S. involvement in Vietnam finally ends, with 50,000 American losses. 5 million Vietnamese, 4 million civilians, died in the conflict. On April 30th, Saigon falls to North Vietnam and becomes Ho Chi Minh City.
If you want to visit the neighboring country of Cambodia, it is possible to finish your Mekong Delta tour in Phnom Penh. If you book one of these tours, the last day of your tour you will take a 3-hour boat trip and arrive to the Vinh Xuong border. You will cross the border, take a 1-hour high speed boat to Lek Luang, where a bus will take you to Phnom Penh.
You can also finish your Mekong Delta tour in Rach Gia. From there, you can take a fast ferry, or a plane, to the paradisiacal island of Phu Quoc.
People in the Mekong Delta region are among the poorest in Vietnam. Although tourism is developing in the area, most of the locals still depend on agriculture and/or fishing. People, especially the children, were extremely friendly!