‘Shop till you drop’ will take on new meaning as you peruse vibrant and exotic goods at one of Vietnam’s most famously bustling markets: Cai Be.

Later, continue your journey into the heart of Vietnam by experiencing the art of candy and rice paper workshops.

The mighty Mekong river has long been home to colorful and exciting floating markets, a virtual melting pot of shapes, sounds, smells, colors and tastes – find fresh fruit and vegetables, coconuts, fish, rice, fish, artisan crafts, souvenirs and other gifts. A wholesale market, traders sell to both individuals and buyers who take a large amount of inventory to sell to even bigger markets.

One of the most colorful of these markets is the one at Cai Be. Hundreds of traders take to the market each day, turning the waterfront into a virtual traffic jam. Held along the Tan Phong Island at the junction of Tien River, the bustling market at Cai Be is known for selling many delicious fresh fruits and vegetables. The boats moor here, creating a type of supermarket paradise – and a bit of a fun traffic jam. All the various boats specialize in particular products – be it dragon fruit, mangoes, or other exotic deliciousness – which is advertised by long poles in front of their boats. Whichever merchandise the boats carry, the traders string up above to let shoppers know where to find them.

Another part of the fun of the Cai Be market is its lush ambience. Along with the beauty of so many boats moored together, selling their wares – travelers always enjoy seeing the charming town from along the riverbanks. The town’s Catholic Cathedral is another popular sight among tourists’ photographs.

While touring the treasure trove of goods at the market, be sure to take time along the way to interact with the traders. Their lives are inextricably linked to the Mekong River – and many even live their lives on the water in mobile houses, following the traditional paths of generations of their families.

The boats used along the river are called sampans. Sampans have been used in Vietnam for hundreds of years and are traditional style, relatively flat bottomed Chinese wooden boats. Some sampans are a type of mobile home, with a small shelter built on part of the boat. Often used as a traditional fish boat, sampans sail along rivers or small coastal areas – but rarely venture far from land as they are not sturdy enough to combat rough weather and choppier ocean seas.

Follow the day by experiencing a candy and rice paper workshops as you try your hand in these traditional art forms used for centuries.

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