Can Tho (Vietnamese: Cần Thơ), is a city in the heart of the Mekong delta, in Vietnam.
Cần Thơ, in the middle of the Mekong Delta, has a tremendous 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"
"Can Tho has white rice and clear water
When you get there, your heart won't go back"
The city of Can Tho is developing fast (about 10% growth in 2004), but retains its charm as the center of a rural area, as the urban development is taking place in a rather orderly manner.
The city is host to about 800,000 inhabitants.
I have been there, and my heart is still there. I am looking forward to going back again, very soon.
Cần Thơ is distant from Saigon:
4 hours on the road
4 hours on the river, speedboat
24 hours on the river, slow boat (non-stop)
As the hub of the Mekong delta, Cần Thơ is also distant (by road) from...
Sóc Trăng 1h30
Cà Mau 6h
Châu Đốc 2h30
Rạch Giá 3h30
So it is easy to get to the farther reaches of the Mekong delta through Cần Thơ.
It is possible to rent a car for $100-120 for a return trip for 2-3 passengers from Saigon to Can Tho; or move by local minibus, which offer better and better services; for about $3-4, and departing every hour or so from the Saigon Western bus station (Bến Xe Miền Tây, Xa Cảng).
There is no regular service any more (there used to be hydrofoils, but they were prone to breakdowns and provoked accidents), but it is still possible to go to Can Tho on the river:
- Rent a speedboat and take a one-stretch run from Saigon, which is rather tiring but is a good way to zoom across the great sceneries of the Mekong delta.
- More relaxing, take a cruise, which offers the opportunity to set foot on the banks and visit villages, without compromising on the service and quality. The Bassac runs on regular overnight cruises towards Can Tho and provides high-end services, including air-con 24 hours a day and all meals cooked on board, including the breakfast.
Can Tho (Cần Thơ) is a regional hub, so it is rather easy to go from Cần Thơ to all the surrounding provinces.
- By bus or minibus, from the bus station, now located at the crossroads of Nguyen Trai (Nguyễn Trãi) and CMT8 (Cách Mạng Tháng 8), but soon to be relocated to 91B 3/2 (Chín mươi mốt B Ba tháng hai).
- by boat, there are rather affordable services of speedboat
- by xe lôi
- by foot (đi bộ)
- The Khmer pagoda of Munirangsyaram, on Hoà Bình street, where you will always be welcome.
- The main market of Cần Thơ used to be located on Ninh Kiều pier, and be mostly an open market. Today, the only original building left is the beautiful old market hall, now surrounded with a garden along the river.
- New markets have been built to host the increasing activity, on Cái Khế peninsula and further upstream the Can Tho river.
- The Bassac  wooden cruisers offer cruises on the Mekong delta to and from Cần Thơ
- There are many supermarkets in Cantho such as : Coopmark (Hoa Binh st), Metro Hung Loi(91B), Citymark, Maximark...
- Cantho market at Cái Khế
Can Tho is famous for delicate cuisine and extra-fresh fruit and vegetables. When you get there, 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.
- Nam Bo (Nam Bộ), is seated in an old French-era building of the Comptoirs d'Indochine, and serves very tasty Vietnamese as well as some western cuisine. The service is nice and efficient, and a surprising variety of languages is spoken there, from English to French to Dutch or even some Japanese.
- 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.
- Goat Specialties (Lẩu Dê Thanh Thuý), a little aside of the city, is run by a French person who settled in Can Tho, and 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 !!!
There is a wide range of services, from the very local KS Tây Hồ (on Ninh Kiều pier, a good choice for $12-15), to the state-owned (and state-like) International Hotel, $25-35, to the more elaborate Ninh Kiều Hotel, $40-60, owned by a military company, to the high-end Victoria Hotel on Cái Khế island ($110++).
- The floating markets are a very lively scenery, accommodating much of the goods exchange on the area, and can be quite freely visited on board smaller boats, for about $3 per hour per small boat. You may take a tour from the Ninh Kiều pier, in front of the Nam Bộ restaurant, where the "boat ladies" are always eager to charm you into taking theirs.
- Cai Rang (Cái Răng) floating market is the main wholesale floating market near Can Tho. Go there early (start no later than 6AM), 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 like to go there on the land. The arroyos back from there 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).