Beautiful Vietnam
Fruit and floating markets: Life in Vietnam's Mekong Delta
  • | Los Angeles Times | August 01, 2010 05:00 AM


Vietnam\'s Mekong Delta is a vibrant, lush landscape of increasingly modern cities amid sprawling rice fields and jungle. The Mekong River and its branches shape life in the region. People live, shop, sell and eat from and in their vessels and homes on the water. Here, the sun rises on the Hau River. Like much of the rest of Vietnam, the day here begins at the crack of dawn when the weather is still cool. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

Can Tho, about 100 miles southwest of Ho Chi Minh City, is the Mekong Delta\'s largest city. Picturesque and modern, the city is one of the region\'s most popular tourist destinations. But it\'s less touristy than Ho Chi Minh or Nha Trang, so its hotels and restaurants here are relatively inexpensive. Nice meals average $5 per person. Comfortable hotels cost about $30 a night. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

Traffic buzzes around a roundabout, as seen from the back of a taxi. All across Vietnam, motorbikes are a favorite mode of transportation. Streets have stoplights and crossing signals, but traffic is erratic. Pedestrians and vehicles take opportunities to move as they present themselves rather than wait for signals. ( My La )

Leisure is easy to find along the river. Travelers can rent a tourist boat, captain included, for two hours for about $10. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

Some homes in Can Tho are built over the river, giving their owners convenient access to the water. (My La )

A boat carrying produce travels down the Can Tho River. (My La )

One of Can Tho\'s most popular attractions is its floating markets, where vendors sell fruit and vegetables on boats. They produce it mostly for wholesale, but a few sellers have retail selections. Cai Rang market, pictured, is the Mekong Delta\'s largest market. It\'s on the Can Tho River about an hour southwest of Can Tho by boat. Business begins at dawn and trails off around 9 a.m., so come early if you want to see the market in full swing. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

Dragon fruit is piled high on a boat. Though scarce in U.S. markets, the unique fruit is widely available in Vietnam. On the inside, it is white with black specks and tastes similar to a honeydew melon. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

A boat offering watermelons for sale. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

Speed is a must for transactions on the water because space is tight and surrounding traffic doesn\'t stop. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

A woman selling durian, the sometimes-beloved, sometimes-vilified fruit, latches onto a tourist boat to make a sales pitch.
( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

A durian seller cuts a sample of the strong-smelling fruit. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

Du Thuyen, a floating restaurant on the Hau Giang River, specializes in seafood. Entrees cost as little as $2. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

At night, Du Thuyen embarks on a cruise along the river. Entertainment includes singers and a magician. The cruise starts at 8 p.m. and lasts two hours, but the restaurant provides free water taxis for those who want to leave early. ( My La )

The Phu Sa tourist area on Au Island on the Hau River off Can Tho. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

Fresh rambutan, foreground, which is both sweet- and sour-tasting, and mangosteens, also a combination of sweet and tart, for sale on Au Island. ( Jason La / Los Angeles Times )

The sun sets on Can Tho, as seen from the roof of the 10-story Kim Tho hotel. (Jason La / Los Angeles Times )


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