Ca Mau is the capital of Ca Mau Province in the Mekong Delta Region of Vietnam. Ca Mau is the southernmost city of mainland Vietnam, and this geographical fact was enough to make me curious about the place. I’ve often looked at it on the map and I wanted to see this place that’s not on the way to anywhere.
Since I’ve been holed up in Vietnam during this pandemic era I’ve been making my way through the capitals of each province in Vietnam. In addition to visiting the provincial capitals, I also want to take a train on every kilometre of track in Vietnam and visit every airport. There is no railway here (though a railway to Ca Mau has been mentioned by wishful provincial leaders), so I took a flight from Ho Chi Minh City and then worked my way overland to some other provinces. Alternatively, there is a direct bus from Saigon that takes 8 hours.
One thing I’ve wondered about Ca Mau Province is that while it’s in the Mekong Delta Region, it’s not on any of the branches of the Mekong River. Flying over the Mekong Region is an instructive way to see the geography of the region, as there are canals everywhere that connect to the Mekong.
The Ca Mau airport is close to the city centre, and there is just one flight per day from Ho Chi Minh City via an ATR turboprop aircraft. I had researched some sights I wanted to see and marked them on a map, and flying over the city I could recognise the central market area.
It was this market that was to be my first place to visit in the city.
Ca Mau Map
This map of Ca Mau includes the places mentioned in this post.
Ca Mau Travel Notes
The main market of Ca Mau was alive with the usual hubbub of activity that can be found in markets across Vietnam, and I always enjoy visiting them.
I had an extra spring in my step that comes with that first-day feeling of being on the road again. And it helped that I was in the friendly Mekong Delta in a place where they see very few tourists. I always feel like I am walking through someone’s workspace when visiting a market, but I was welcomed with hellos and requests for photos while walking around.
The market is on a junction of two rivers, and previously there would have been more market activity on the river. These floating markets have been gradually moving on land as roads and infrastructure improve.
Walking around the city I kept an eye out for any remnants of old architecture, but like most other places in the Delta, there is very little left of anything that would be considered heritage. I found this one that looks like it’s on its last legs.
Hung Vuong Park is a decent park in the city centre.
It’s flanked by a row of mature trees.
Near the park is the Cao Dai temple, which is another common site in the Mekong Delta.
No prizes for guessing that the grandest and most modern-looking building in Ca Mau is the provincial capital building.
There are Khmer Buddhist temples throughout the Mekong Delta Region that serve a small community of Khmer Krom people – one of Vietnam’s 53 ethnic minorities. The best place to see Khmer temples in Vietnam is Tra Vinh, and there is a great one to visit here in Ca Mau.
Visiting Chua Monivongsa Bopharam reminded me of being in Cambodia, and I was happy to experience a change in temple style.
Overall there aren’t many sites here that I can tell you about. The main satisfaction is just wandering around, maybe finding a tree-lined street that lures you in another direction, and finding a new cafe or potential place to eat.
I’ve noted before in my provincial travels that you won’t see many chain cafes. I’ve been using the local chain Highland Coffee as a benchmark, and The Coffee House is another one that seems to be spreading across the country. There were no chains here at the time of my visit, so I sought out the spacious garden cafes for my coffee fix.
I have also noted previously in Ha Tien my theory that the further south you go in Vietnam, so more sweetened condensed milk they use in the iced coffee. This theory was proven when I was served this glass of coffee with sugar milk. Even accounting for the cone-shaped glass, this is probably a new record for me for most condensed milk.
While researching things to see in Ca Mau I found mentions of a floating market, but these websites were using photos of the Cai Rang Market in Can Tho (which I have been to and recognised). Seeing misinformation like this made me wish there was a dedicated Mekong Delta travel guide.
Vietnam Tourism actually has a slick website (compared to other governmental departments here), but the Mekong section just has a one-page overview.
There has been talk of a strategy to help Mekong Delta optimise tourism potential, so making a comprehensive guide for the 12 provinces of the Mekong region (mekongdelta.travel for example) would be a good start.
I was thinking about tourism strategies when I was looking out the aircraft window at those cargo boats in the canal. I’ve written about promoting Mekong Delta tourism through cargo boat travel. Instead of getting a bus to my next destination it would have been great to have cargo boat adventure instead.
I just stayed in the city of Ca Mau on this trip and didn’t visit anything else in the province. Many visitors continue on to the Ca Mau Cape National Park to go to the most southerly point in Vietnam. I’ve been to enough “most southerly points” in my lifetime to know that I didn’t need to go. My next stop was to neighbouring Bac Lieu, the capital of Bac Lieu Province.