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 The Mekong's floating markets

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     The Mekong Delta is the bottom half of Vietnam's two rice baskets (the other being the Red River Delta in the North). This vast delta is formed by the deposition of the multiple tentacles and tributaries of the mighty Mekong River which has its origin in the Tibetan highland plateau 2,800 miles away. From its source, the river makes its way through China, Myanmar (Burma), Laos, Cambodia and South Vietnam before flowing out into the South China Sea. The Mekong's Vietnamese name, Cuu Long, means Nine Dragons for the nine mouths that terminate the flow of this great river as it is absorbed by the sea.

The people of south Vietnam are often very proud of the richness and vastness of this land. When referring to the rice fields in this area, they often say, "co bay thang canh", meaning the land is so large that the cranes can stretch their wings as they fly. Today, the region is one of Vietnam's highest producer of rice crops, vegetables and fruits.

The Mekong Delta became famous world wide during what locals call the anti-American War. The Delta is also famous for its floating markets which are typical of the Phung Hiep and the Cai Be. On arriving in the Delta, you can start the motorized boat to visit the Cai Be floating market, experience how people exchanging goods, fruit and many other commodities on their vessels.

Farmers from the region bring their goods, fruits and vegetables mainly, to the markets and sell them to local dealers. These dealers sell the products to shops in the neighboring towns and to wholesale dealers from the big towns. In the picture you can see a local farmer with fruits for sale. All big boats have a pole. Each wholesaler hangs the goods he buys/sells on this pole. This way, people on small boats know where they have to go from a certain distance. In this case, this is a floating vegetable supermarket. On the floating markets you do not only find people buying and selling goods, you also find floating restaurants, floating bars, floating gas stations, and many other floating shops. Canals are here the easiest and fastest way of transportation.

The biggest floating market in the Mekong Delta is the busy market of Phung Hiep. The market open at 4.00 am and are open till 11.00 am. To visit the floating market, you should stay in the Mekong Delta area, wake up early and take one of the boats first hour in the morning. If you do a one day excursion, the market will be already closed by the time you get here. On a typical day, you might see coconuts, mangoes, a heap of turtles, a box of snakes or even a pot-bellied pig being paddled from a riverside village to be haggled over in the floating market. Trading begins as early as 4.00 am, and by sunrise, the waterways are clogged with the sampans of marketeers and customers. Vendors of smaller items hoist a sample of their wares on a bamboo pole. Shoppers come by land andand as they stumble from boat to boat, they often interrupt their shopping to enjoy bowls of noodles prepared, rather alarmingly, on open fires in special ‘fast food’ sampans. water,

Cai Be, one of the many well-known floating markets in the western region of southern Vietnam was formed in the Nguyen Dynasty in the 19th century. The Cai Be Floating Market is always busy, bearing all the characteristics of the locals’ life in the western region. All the goods are transported to the market by rafts and boats.

The floating market lies in the Tien River, adjacent to three provinces of Tien Giang, Vinh Long and Ben Tre. The market is divided into two parts: buying and selling places. Rafts


Phung Hiep Floating Market

and boats are anchored along the two sides of the river for kilometres. Approximately 400 to 500 boats filled with fruits, vegetables, and other products are anchored along the banks of the river. The merchandise sold in each boat is hung on a pole in front of the boat to attract customers. From the floating market, goods are shifted for selling at inland markets or small boats take them for delivery along canals in the Plain of Reeds.

From three 3.00 am in the early morning, rafts and boats are crowded because Cai Be is one of the biggest wholesale markets in the region. Traders live on the river and some link their lives with boats like their mobile house for generations. Cai Be seems to be an inseparable part of their daily lives. On each boat, goods are hung on poles that are called dialectically “cay beo”. Hundreds of such poles point the sky wards. Boats also operate like “taxis,” very convenient for tourists around the region. Along the criss crossing canals, people in the Plain of Reeds take not only goods of each countryside to the Cai Be Floating Market but also their unique cultural characteristics, creating such a beautiful river painting.

 
 

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