Can Tho (or Cantho; Vietnamese: Cần Thơ) is a relatively large city in the heart of the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam.
Can Tho has a reputation for being a welcoming place, where everybody is smiling and welcoming. Indeed the Vietnamese in the Mekong Delta are making good a saying that goes:
"Cần Thơ gạo trắng nước trong
Ai đi tới đó lòng không muốn về"
"Cần Thơ, white rice, clear waters,
All who come wish never to leave."
Can Tho has a population well in excess of 1 million and is the biggest city in the Mekong Delta. Although developing fast (about 10% growth in 2004), it retains its charm as the center of a rural area, as urban development is taking place in a rather orderly manner.
By road, allow about 1.5 hours from Sóc Trăng, about 3 hours from Châu Đốc, about 3.5 hours from Rạch Giá, less than 4 hours from Ho Chi Minh City (85,000 dong), about 6 hours from Cà Mau and about 1.5 hours from Long Xuyen.
It is possible to rent a car for US$110-130 for a return trip for 2-3 passengers from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho; or move by local minibus, which offer better and better services; for about US$5-8, and departing every hour or so from the Ho Chi Minh City western bus station (Bến Xe Miền Tây, Xa Cảng). Phuong Trang company is offering a more confortable service providing a large coach with room for luggages and waiting lounge in the bus station. Price is a bit lower than "express" minibuses that are only few minutes faster indeed.
It is also possible to rent a taxi for about almost the same price than a car for 1 way from Ho Chi Minh City to Can Tho. Try hiring a Vina Taxi outside of the tourist areas (District 1) for this kind of traveling, you will be surprised about the rate differences a trip outside of district makes.
Apart from cruises (with night onboard) like the Bassac boats, there is no more regular boat transportation to Can Tho. As the time necessary for a car trip from HCMC as been reduced to less than 4 hours with the opening of the Can Tho bridge and the motorway around HCMC, there is no reason for a speed boat service anymore.
Trà Nóc Airport is currently being expanded and upgraded to international status, with completion for international flights due in 2010.
As of 2010, the airport is connected only to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city, with flights on Vietnam Airlines.
Can Tho is a regional hub, so it is rather easy to get to and from all the surrounding provinces.
by bus or minibus, from the bus station, formerly located at the crossroads of Nguyen Trai (Nguyễn Trãi) and CMT8 (Cách Mạng Tháng 8), but now relocated to 91B 3/2 (Chín mươi mốt B Ba tháng hai)
by boat, there are rather affordable services of speedboat
by xe lôi" car pull"
on foot (đi bộ)
The Khmer pagoda of Munirangsyaram, on Hoà Bình street, where you will always be welcome.
The main market of Can Tho used to be an open market located on Ninh Kiều pier. Today, the only original building left is the beautiful old market hall, now surrounded with a garden along the river.
New markets on Cái Khế peninsula and further upstream the Can Tho river have been built to host the increasing activity.
The floating markets are a very lively scene, accommodating much of the goods exchange throughout the area, and can be quite freely visited on board smaller boats for about US$3/hour per boat. You may take a tour from the Ninh Kiều pier, in front of Nam Bộ restaurant, where the "boat ladies" are charmingly eager to welcome you aboard.
Cai Rang (Cái Răng) floating market is the main wholesale floating market near Can Tho. Go there early (as early as 06:00), and come back through the small tributaries to Can Tho river; about 3-4 hours. The Mystic sampans offer higher-end breakfast cruises to Cai Rang floating market.
Phong Dien (Phong Điền) is further upstream the Can Tho river, and worth seeing as it is a retail market. It is very active at dawn, but slows down early too, so you may want to go there by land. The arroyos back to Can Tho are also very much worth a ride on a small boat.
Phung Hiep (Phụng Hiệp) is much farther away, in the neighboring Hậu Giang province, but deserves a trip if you are going to stay more than a few days, as it is always bustling with activity.
Tra On (Trà Ôn), in Vinh Long province, is just over an hour downstream the Bassac (the lower Mekong branch, also called Hậu Giang or Sông Hậu). It is a small floating village's market anchored near the clouds' island (Cù Lao Mây).
The canal system around Can Tho is a fascinating travel network, much more relaxed than the bustling roads. Hire a small row boat (probably with a small diesel motor as well) that can take you through the small canals that the larger tour boats can't navigate. Tours from 6am to 2pm, including two floating markets and various sites along the canals, can be found for under 250,000 dong per person.
The Bassac wooden cruisers run regular overnight trips between Can Tho and Cái Bè, and provide high-end services including non-stop air-con and all meals cooked on board.
Mekong Eyes cruise  The Mekong Eyes combines regional boat-building traditions with modern comforts to become the perfect holiday vessel to cruise the Mekong in style. Cruising CaiBe- Can Tho 100km, 9 hours
There are many supermarkets in Can Tho such as : Coopmart (Hoa Binh Street), Metro Hung Loi (91B)[you need a special registration card to shop here], Citymark, Maximark, Vinatex Plaza...
Can Tho main market at Cái Khế is a very typical and colorful place to buy authentic Vietnamese goods.
Can Tho is famous for delicate cuisine and extra-fresh fruit and vegetables, and a good place to try and eat the fruit you would not usually like: you may well find they are very tasty and enjoyable.
Among the local produce, you may like to try mangoes, oranges, jackfruit, pomeloes, grapefruit, but also custard apple, corossol, longans or even durian.
Phở Cali, Trần Văn Kéo Street (close to the central market in front of the Exhibition Centre and the Citimart supermarket).
Nam Bo (Nam Bộ). Seated in an old French-era building of the Comptoirs d'Indochine, and serves very tasty Vietnamese as well as some Western cuisine such as pizza and spaghetti. The service is nice and efficient, and a surprising variety of languages is spoken there, from English to French to Dutch and even some Japanese. edit
Sao Hom (Sao Hôm). Located in the central market's hall, facing the Can Tho river, and serves a large palette of Vietnamese cuisine, as well as some western food, too. The ambiance at night is unique. edit
Phở Cali, Trần Văn Kéo Street (close to the central market in front of the Exhibition Centre and the Citimart supermarket).
Café Năm Sao (3/2 street, after the crossing with 91B national road) and Café Thủy Mộc (3/2 street, in front of the Foreign Languages Center at the Campus 2 of Can Tho univerisity) offer quiet places in a green and nature atmosphere. Lot of drinks and meals available at good prices for breakfast, lunch and dinner. The first is recommended if you want to relax and the second one if you want to have a good quality meal.
In Cái Khế ward:
Phở Cali, Trần Văn Kéo Street (close to the central market in front of the Exhibition Centre and the Citimart supermarket). offers good vietnamese and western meals in clean and air conditionned places for reasonnable prices.
Fast Food, (Nguyễn Trãi street, inside the Citimart Supermarket, at the crossing with Trần Văn Kéo street).
There is a brand new Shopping Mall in the Exhibition Centre area called Champs Elysées - La petite France. It features a good french and vietnamese style bakery and a nice bar. Try it...
Some restaurants more aimed at serving vietnamese guests but that can offers a more exotic and delightful experience to foreigners have recently appeared. The Sông Hậu on the 3rd February street close to the University (Đường 3/2) or the Alô 100 on CMT8 road not far from the ferry (Đường Cách Mạng Tháng 8) provide a nice environment, varied meals and affordable prices for a service that is still improving.
Dat Phuong Nam (Black Beer Restaurant in Can Tho - Address : 132/11 Ba Thang Hai Str , Can Tho City ) is a first Germany Beer Restaurant in Can Tho - Very Good but more aimed at serving vietnamese guests since located in a small lane of a remote area.
Goat Specialties (Lẩu Dê Thanh Thuý) is a little aside of the city, and run by a French person who settled in Can Tho who offers a variety of dishes revolving around savory goat meet.
There are also a variety of other restaurants, the quality and service of which spans the whole range from poor to great.
Dog meat (Thịt cầy Trần Văn Hoài), ngon hết biết !!!
Duck soup (Vịt nấu chao Hẻm 1), ngon hết sảy !!!
Vietnamese people typically enjoy a coffee (strong, with lots of condensed milk and ice), fresh coconut juice, and fruit drinks (lemonade, orange juice, etc.) in one of the many small stalls along the streets or in the markets.
If you want to spend a few hours like a Vietnamese, the best places are located on the river, with the most famous ones near Ninh Kiều pier. Just in front of the three-star Ninh Kiều hotel is a popular and affordable place, which is sometime crowded, especially when students get out of school for the day.
A bit more difficult to reach, but very authentic, is the Bãi Cát pier (former beach on the Mekong) a great spot to watch the boats cruising on the main river.
A nice family owned and operated cafe, known as "Cafe Buu Dien" (Post Office Cafe) serves the best coffees and has an interesting atmosphere. The servers holler your orders to the back, and in a couple of minutes you get fresh coffee in a warm mug. Its extremely fast paced, but at the same time very relaxing. They have locations throughout Can Tho, but hop on any xich lo or taxi and just tell them to take you to a "Cafe Buu Dien" and they'll know where to go. My favorite location is the one in Cai Khe ward, known as "Cafe Bich Phuong".
The nightlife in Can Tho is not as vibrant as Ho Chi Minh City but it is not as "bottle service" centric as HCMC either. Can Tho clubs usually hire famouse Vietnamese singers to perform live in their venues and feature go go dancers on regular night. Drink price is usually 50,000 VND for a bottle of beer, around 1m for a bottle of cheap vodka and more for expensive cognac/whiskey such as Hennessy VSOP/XO.
XK club , 108B Tran Van Kheo St, Ninh Kieu District. Nice red-black decor with banging sound system but quite small therefore more secure and chill than other clubs. Pretty and friendly go go dancers.
Xe Loi Club, Hau Riverside Park, Bai Cat Zone, Cai Khe Ward, Ninh Kieu District. The place to be on weekend, spacious club, good lighting/sound system with laser to boost. Open until 3 AM with the most fun happening from 11PM till 2 AM. Mixed youthful and energetic but can be quite sketchy crowd.
Golf Club, Golf Hotel near Ninh Kieu pier and the Central Bank. Quite upscale club with many business men preferring this place to chill out on the weekend.
Cafe Bar Eden, Le Loi St. Good for couples
Cafe Billard At Chuan, Le Loi St (Lê Lợi). Invovled MC and DJ.
Cafe Bar Black And White, Le Loi St. Same as Eden.
Wild Horse, Le Loi St. Classicism and Impressionism decor with good selection of wine. Closed as of October 2010
There is a wide range of services, from the very local KS Tây Hồ (on Ninh Kiều pier, a good choice for US$12-15), to the state-owned (and state-like) International Hotel, US$25-35, to the recent and more elaborate Ninh Kiều 2 Hotel, on Hòa Bình street, owned by a military company.
Kim Thơ. hotel offers a 3 star accommodation close to the Ninh Kiêu peer which is the town center where are most of the restaurants, bars and tourstic places of interest. It is clean, cosy, recent and located in a quiet street (Ngô Gia Tự) not far from the speed boat peer.
Green Hotel, 31 Chau van Liem Street, Ninh Kieu dist, ☎ 0913 764 994. Friendly and comfortable. Here, you can relax and take care of your health for spa, massase, bar and drink coffee. Or walking by foot to Ninh Kieu Quay and sight seeing of Hau poetic river- Mekong delta with 2 minutes. US$15-25.
Spring Hotel, 22 Khu Dan Cu So9 Duong 30/4, ☎ 0710 3839723. Have to recommend this *very* clean and friendly place. Rooms maintained and bed sheet changed daily during stay. Enjoy meals any time you want at the nice sitting area by the big windows on each floor.Try their coffee once you are there! The "only" downside is distant from the river (40mins by feet) but free bikes to ride around as well as motorbike rental. Staff are genuine nice! Thumbs up! USD$10.
A different way is to try bed and breakfast accommodation in the Can Tho surroundings. Hanh and Yannick from Nature-Mekong offers accommodation services and their house is located close to the famous Cái Răng floating market.
Victoria Can Tho, ☎ 71.810111 (fax: 71.829259), . Luxury resort on Cái Khế island, including a swimming pool, a spa, a ballroom, and a rice barge for a scenic breakfast, lunch or dinner. Rooms from US$108, river view suites from US$175.
From Can Tho you can easily reach other peaceful cities of the Mekong Delta such as Sóc Trăng, Châu Đốc, Sa Đéc Rạch Giá and Cà Mau. If you are heading to the north from the main bus station be careful about what ticket you buy. If you are going with a mini bus and your destination is not directly on the route to Ho Chi Min City they might just drop you off somewhere. You will have to buy another ticket and end up paying way to much.