Guidebook Be part of a Floating Market on the Mekong River

Must-do list

Be part of a Floating Market on the Mekong River

“At around 5am, boats filled with fruits and vegetables gather in the same spot to sell and trade their bounty,” writes Itchy Feet on the Cheap. The Mekong floating market is about 500 metres long -- “it’s an amazingly colorful experience, with fruit being tossed around, people yelling, and plenty of amazing photo ops.” Known as the “rice bowl” of Vietnam, the Mekong River “carves its way through six countries (Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Thailand, and China) before dispersing as it crosses the Cambodia/Vietnam border, passing through lush jungle, riverside villages with stilted houses, rice paddies, and ancient, crumbling temples,” says Man Vs Globe. “It has been a lifeline for the people here for thousands of years and still is for some of the 20 million or so that call the delta home.”

The busy floating markets have long shaped the delta’s well-known “water civilization”, write Nguyen Minh Quang and Dao Ngoc Canh in The Diplomat. “No-one knows exactly how old the delta’s floating markets are, but some historians believe they have flourished since the Nguyen Dynasty in the early 19th century. Since then, they have long been major markets, sustaining thousands of floating lives.” It’s where hundreds of boats and sampans, full of fruit and vegetables, flowers, and handicraft products, gather to trade their various goods, “making for crowded and frenetic scenery … the bustling commerce of these ‘floating towns’ stands in contrast to the languid and quiet lifestyle in the countryside along the river banks.”

“The floating markets are major wholesale markets in the delta. As early as 4 am, hundreds of big boats and sampans come to anchor along the riverbanks, forming a line stretching for up to two kilometres. Business here begins at the crack of dawn, when the weather is still cool, and trails off around 9 am. Owners of large boat bring in whatever they want to sell –from handicrafts, pottery, and ceramics, to tropical fruits, domestic animals, poultry, snakes, and bonsais — from villages as far as tens of kilometers away … By sunrise, the markets are clogged with the sampans of marketeers and customers. Since space is tight and surrounding traffic doesn’t stop, speed is a must for transactions on the water. Shoppers come by land and water. As they stumble from boat to boat, they often interrupt their shopping to enjoy bowls of bún nước lèo prepared, rather alarmingly, on open fires in special ‘fast food’ sampans or beverages in smaller rafts serving as mobile cafés. There are also other businesses amid the swarm of boats: hairdressers and herbalists, and even lottery ticket salesmen, who can hardly keep up with demand. - The Diplomat

Must-do list
  • Guidebook