Deciding on a quick stopover in Southern Vietnam’s Can Tho before hitting the hustle and bustle of crazy Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), never expected what happened next…
With an estimated population of 1,5 million in 2012, this Can Tho is famous for its floating markets, network of canals, delicious food, fresh fruits, but also the beauty of the Mekong Delta.
Expecting a longish day as leaving from Phu Quoc Island to transit through Ha Tien then onto Can Tho, today starts without too many hick-ups.
The ferry leaves the island at 08:30am and arrives in Ha Tien at 10:00am as scheduled. From the Ha Tien ferry terminal, a guy with your name on a card finds you and after piling into another mini-bus, drives to the Green Travel office. At this point, everyone splits up for onward destinations and the minibus takes you to the local bus station, if Can Tho is where you’re heading.
I’ve included a bit of detail above so you know what happens as no one really explains exactly what’s going on and this can be a little frustrating and confusing.
The local bus departs at 10:30am and is supposed to arrive in Can Tho at 4:00pm but we arrive around 8:00pm as our bus is involved in a fatal accident…
A fateful day!
Everyone piles onto the local bus in Ha Tien as scheduled and we travel about 30 kilometres north of the town.
As it’s an early start and a little tired, the movement of the bus is just starting to lull me to sleep when bang! The bus comes to a screeching halt but we’re not travelling very fast.
Everyone soon realises that we’re in an accident, but not sure just how bad it is…
It’s a head-on collision with our bus and 2 guys barely in their early 20’s on their motorbike.
The rider died instantly on impact. The pillion (passenger) is flung to the other side of the road with a huge gaping hole in his head – bleeding profusely, and barely alive.
Apart from never being involved in such an accident, the utterly confronting thing for me is what happens next and the way in which the locals behave at the accident scene…
The barely alive passenger strewn half-way across the road is obstructing traffic.
Locals gather around the accident scene looking, pointing, and voicing their opinions of what occurred, and motorists wait impatiently.
The dead rider is left uncovered where he landed on the kerbside – it’s a distressing scene.
I ask people to phone an ambulance but no one really understands.
My partner checks the rider and pillion’s pulses. A bus passenger is hanging out of the bus taking photos of the accident with his phone, but advises that an ambulance has been phoned.
Around 10 minutes after the accident, traffic is now very impatient as no one can get through – there’s only about a couple of metres between the deceased and the barely-alive pillion.
One bystander walks over and props up the pillion so that bikers can pass!
Blood is still draining out of his head. He’s barely breathing.
To my horror, a crude wooden cart is wheeled up and the pillion is thrown into the back of the cart. Apparently, they’re taking him to hospital…not sure where as we’re in a village.
Welcome to Vietnam!
Life is cheap in Asia and if you can’t pay for a hospital, you don’t survive.
After 8 months of travel in South East Asia, only in Vietnam 4 days with one minor accident already on Phu Quoc Island, and now our local bus involved in this fatal road accident, things are not boding well.
Half an hour after the accident the police finally arrive at the scene.
The officer in charge covers the dead rider with a rattan mat, takes measurements, asks a few questions from different bystanders, then hoists the smashed up motor bike in the back of the police truck.
If things aren’t bad enough, one officer throws the dead rider in the back of the truck just like he’s a sack of potatoes, with his motor bike and drives off.
During this time, the ambulance arrives and promptly leaves…
The remaining passengers from our bus wait on the side of the road for several hours trying to catch another bus. Passing busses are full so they don’t stop. If you’ve ever travelled on Asian buses, you know what I mean.
Everything is so surreal – like a nightmare – or a movie set. Except that this is the harsh reality in Vietnam.
The Mekong Delta’s charm is what draws travellers to this city situated south of the Hau River, and known for its network of canals and nearby floating markets.
It is lovely just to walk along the riverfront, take in a cool drink, and absorb the local culture.
One of the many bridges offering beautiful views is another place to enjoy a cool change from the river breezes – try the Nguyen Trai bridge, as this is where locals like to spend evenings – great people-watching.
Ninh Kieu Pier Tourist Market
Not as popular as Cái Khế market and Xuan Khanh market, Ninh Kieu is still a pleasant place to wander around for a few hours.
Albeit a little touristy, you can indulge in some of the local delicacies here at budget prices.
Boat trip around the canals and floating Market
The 3-hour boat trip (250,000VND) travels up the intriguing Hau River and is a fantastic trip, well worth the money.
The lovely lady boat driver weaves our small timber boat with an engine bigger than her tiny body, in and out of the narrow canals with expertise. No doubt she’s probably done this a thousand times before and is totally at ease…
We arrive at the floating market just before 12 noon to not many boats left. You really need to be here for around 05:30-06:00am.
Still, it’s wonderful checking out some of the leftover market boats, locals interacting about their daily bargaining, and watching boat traffic leave the general market area.
The Kim Lan Hotel on 138A Nguyen An Ninh Street is renovated and excellent value-for-money – spotless, breakfast is delicious with a choice of several dishes, wi-fi is very good with a router on each floor. A comfy bed, cable TV with English channels, and very helpful, friendly, and pleasant staff makes this hotel is excellent.
Rooms are serviced daily and come with a huge bathroom – toiletries, hair dryer, and great solar hot water provided – what more can a traveller ask for?
A great location to everything you need in Can Tho and staff organise bus trips in and out of Can Tho with a pick-up at this hotel, which is great. I can’t fault this hotel.
Apart from the 3 main local markets (Ninh Kieu Pier Tourist, Cái Khế, and the Xuan Khanh) as great eating haunts, try some of the riverfront restaurants and cafes.
I try to stick to local places and not go to western-style restaurants – what’s the point? I can always get western food at home.
Delicious street food is abound in this city and you won’t be disappointed. So, push the boat out and try a few dishes.
Leaving Can Tho
The Kim Lan Hotel organises the Thanh Buoi bus ticket (130,000VND or USD$6) to Saigon, which leaves Can Tho at 10:30am and includes the minibus pick-up from the hotel to the local Can Tho bus station.
The tourist bus to Saigon where apparently we swap to another bus for District 1 is also included in the ticket.
Apprehensive of travelling on Vietnamese roads again after the accident, I’m hoping there won’t be any more incidents…