If eco-tourism is something that intrigues you, then Can Tho in Vietnam is one destination you can check out.
Located in the Mekong Delta, Can Tho is regarded as the “Rice Bowl” of Vietnam. The delta’s vibrant and diverse culture, combined with the beautiful views, will leave a heart-warming impression on travellers.
It gives visitors a sense of tranquillity upon arrival as most of its natural surroundings remain untouched.
The 10-minute boat ride from our hotel – the luxurious Azerai Resort – to the city was something to cherish. The Azerai lies on a verdant islet on the Hau River (a tributary of the Mekong) and features 60 rooms. It can only be accessed by boat, so it is an exclusive property that’s perfect for holidaymakers needing a little privacy.
You get a gorgeous panoramic view of the delta with orange-red and pink skylines from the hotel at about 5am when the sun rises. You can also savour this view at sundown while on a cool river cruise.
The Mekong Delta not only provides a source of income to fishermen but also to farmers and vendors who start their trade in the wee hours of the morning. A trans-boundary river in South-East Asia, the Mekong river is the world’s 12th longest river and the seventh longest in Asia with an estimated length of 4,350km.
The Cai Rang floating market is a popular tourist destination that sells mainly local fruits and agricultural products. The market, which operates from 5am to 7am daily, is always abuzz with people. Hundreds of boats and canoes can be seen in this so-called “water trade fair” each day.
To sell their goods, vendors hang their products on bamboo sticks known as “beo sticks” for prospective buyers to check them out. This particular culture at the floating market was recognised as a national intangible heritage in 2016.
There are special man-made ditches there where folks can catch fish using nets. It is fun, though a bit of a challenge to do so. You would need to observe the water closely for any movement or splashing sound before casting the net.
One of the main fishes found in these ditches is the snake head fish, which is popular among locals and often eaten at meals. Tourists can have their freshly-caught fish cooked at the market, and enjoy a lovely meal there, too.
Besides this experience, you can also hire small boats to go around the river, or even into some of the surrounding man-made lakes.
When you’re done with the market, take a boat to Con Son island, a beautiful place with lots of tropical fruit trees and fishing spots.
Here, the locals will happily show guests how they make their traditional cakes and desserts. Visitors are encouraged to participate in the preparations, but of course the best thing about it is that you get to eat what you’ve made.
Apart from eco-tourism experiences, Can Tho also has many historical buildings and relics to check out. The Binh Thuy ancient house, for example, features traditional Vietnamese and French colonial architecture. The house is about 150 years old and is surrounded by colourful and blooming flowers. It was built in 1870 for the Duong family, and was restored sometime in early 20th century.
The Truc Lam Temple is a famous spot for those seeking a spiritual calmness. It is a Zen Buddhist temple set on top of a hill shrouded in pine forests and pretty gardens.
One of the reasons for building the temple was to recreate the spirit of Zen Buddhism during the Tran Dynasty that ruled Vietnam from the year 1225 to 1400. The tradition practised here was started by Emperor Tran Nhan Tong, who abdicated the throne in favour of his son Tran Anh Tong, to become a Buddhist monk.
Another good place to visit is the Can Tho Museum. It has many interesting exhibits that explain the history of the Mekong Delta, as well as the customs and traditions practised by locals.
Plenty of old pictures are on display at the museum as well as information on the Vietnam War.
The Ninh Kieu pedestrian bridge is another attraction in the city. The bright and illuminated bridge is the first of its kind in the Mekong Delta. It is worth taking a leisurely walk down the bridge during sundown as the view is amazing. Have your dinner at any of the boats parked at the bridge – they will be adorned with colourful neon lights so you can’t miss them.
AirAsia flies 4x weekly to Can Tho from Kuala Lumpur. For more information, head to airasia.com.