An Excursion in Cai Be Floating Market

Everyone knows that the South Vietnam is an area having many vast rivers. It is surrounded by rivers, small canals, ponds, lakes ... All transportation depend on local boats.

We experienced Tien Giang– a province located in the Southwest within not so much time. It was so excited when traveling to water area because we could feel clearly the lives of local people. With rural lifestyle, survive thanks to rivers’ occupation, all activities are on boats, wherries such as fishing, trading. The most special thing here is trading activity in floating market. We also visited floating market which is the most attractive destination in Tien Giang province. 
 
Hundreds of boats rowing into the Mekong River
Hundreds of boats rowing into the Mekong River for trading.
 
Thanks to this special experience, I already better understood about floating markets terrain on river. Floating markets are usually opened in the sections of river either not so wide or not so narrow, relatively large, either not so shallow or not so deep as well. If the rivers are too deep, too big, there will be difficult and dangerous for boats, wherries to anchor. Cai Be floating market is located on the middle of Tien River bordering with three provinces of Vinh Long, Tien Giang and Ben Tre.
We had intent to be in the floating market at 5.30 am – which is most bustling of whole day. Inadvertently, when we arrived Cai Be, it was already over 7.00 am. We were instructed to hire a boat to go to the market by a teacher.
 
Almost of them often sell fruits, flowers and other agricultural products
Almost of them often sell fruits, flowers and other agricultural products
 
When we were in the market, it was closed, the busy trading scene was gone. Though it closed, there were still several big boats dealing, delivering goods as pumpkin, cassava, and banana. Especially, some boats also sold breakfast food (pig’s tripe soup). The houses at both sides of river sold dried foods, household appliances and clothing, groceries. All small and big boats queued on two sides, along with many floating houses moving on the river.

Although we did not witness the market’s bustling scene, we still saw the diversity of goods in the market, lifestyle of the locals. Cai Be floating market seems to be an integral part in the lives of the people here. A boatman took us to visit other places such as honey producer, orchard and listen to traditional music, try visiting by dinghy. 
 
Hot noodle for breakfast in Cai Be floating market
Hot noodle for  your breakfast in Cai Be floating market
 
Visiting the honey producer, we are introduced about honey, allowed to drink honey with ginger and some kumquat fruits with water. It tasted quite strange. You could buy bottled honey along with some other souvenirs made from coconut.

The next destination was an orchard. I visited orchards of plum, durian, mango, longan, jackfruit ... The way Tien Giang people looking after their orchards is very careful, tactful. That orchards were regarded as babies, which were covered by plastic bags when they flower and fruit to protect them. We enjoyed here a fresh and cool air typical characteristic of Mekong area. Perhaps, I haven’t had feeling like that for a long time.
 
Mango gardens in the area of Cai Be floating market, Mekong Delta
Orchard is one of the most typical thing of Mekong Delta Vietnam
 
After that, we were guided to visit by dinghy with a local boatman. We were taken into a small canal with moderate depth, surrounded by lush riparian grass. Sitting on the dinghy, I initially felt dizzy, but soon interesting.

The next route in Cai Be that we went was back to orchards to enjoy fruits and listen to traditional music (called đờn ca tài tử). We were served thoughtfully, very well by owners and servants. “Đờn ca tài tử” was performed by diversified musical instruments which are typical characteristic of the region. 
Music bands usually use five musical instruments often called “ngũ tuyệt” (five great), including: 16-chord zither, pipa, moon lute, two-chord fiddle, 36 chord zither. In many places, they also use more flute, drum, trumpet ... and daily working tools such as hoe, basket, cage (catching shrimp, fish), the basket (for shopping) to help the performance more lively.
 
"Đờn ca tài tử" is a kind of folk song in Vietnam South Western part
Coming to Vietnam South Western area, you must listen "Đờn ca tài tử"
 
About costumes, mostly participants performing “đờn ca tài tử” are friends, neighbors so they often wear daily clothes while performing. In Southern region, the main costume is “áo bà ba” – a traditional costume that you find only in Vietnam Mekong River. In recent years, in order to meet the needs of visitors, groups of traditional music gather to be several clubs. In addition to their occupation, they will also perform when being required.

While performing, they helped listeners feel the content of the songs. In particular, they had ability to feel a song by heart very high. They made the listeners understand more about Vietnam southern land where has interlacing river systems. For a long time ago, the image of local boats, wherries, rivers, bridges ...  have been extremely familiar to the locals here. Right when being born, they were immersed in to vast sky and land. When growing up, they had to go through bamboo bridges. When fishing, dropping nets, carrying goods to the market... they also attached their lives to the immense water. Đờn ca tài tử are songs which are bold of Southern people’s mood through the picture of rivers, boats ... Music influences profound to the soul of the listener. The traditional music helps them relax after a tiring working day.
 
Cai Be itself owns an original life
The journey to Cai Be ended after the period of time wandering on river. The old boat took us back to the dock. Looking back on the sparkling water surface by sunlight and purple water hyacinth bobbing on the river made us attached. I hoped that I will come back in one day in near future and see many things new but still typical of Cai River region – the river area in Southern Viet Nam. 

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